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Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2007 at 6:14 am

What Makes You Comment?

By Bryan Eisenberg
March 14th, 2007

commentOver the past couple weeks, Chris Garret has been reminding us the why commenting on blogs is good and why we should be doing it more often. For years, Future Now has studied what makes people buy or become a lead online. However, getting people to comment on a blog post, or even submit a review, is a different type of sale. Certainly, more people would like to understand it. We’ll cover submitting reviews in another post shortly. For now, though, I’d like to ask you to please help us understand the psychology of commenting.

Long time lurkers, old pros, and first-time callers are all welcome.

1. Have you read any posts (anywhere) in the last week that you found interesting?

2. If you found something interesting, did you comment on it?

3. If yes, why? If no, why not? (feel free to provide examples)

Please post your reply below. Thank you.

P.S. Please share this with others. The greater sample we get the better understanding we will have and be able to share with you.

Comments (62)

  1. 1. This one
    2. Yes
    3. Because you gave a prompt to comment

    Seriously, I find the best way a blogger can encourage more comments is to *ask*. Give a prompt, hint, request, question – sometimes people need permission or a hook to help them comment.

  2. 1. I am constantly finding interesting blogs to read – so I have to limit the amount of reading I do each so I can get my own writing done.
    2. When I find something I relate to, or is relevant to my niche, I often will leave a comment.
    3. I comment on the blogs of others because when I do they often comment in return on my blog. In this way we build up a sense of community in our niche.

  3. 1. Yes
    2. No
    3. I’ve gone to comment a few times, and many blogs require me to register before I can comment. Normally it just doesn’t seem worth it to spend 2 minutes registering for some weird blog service I’ll never use again just to throw a 1-sentence comment up there.

  4. 1) Many, but yesterday I happened to read Jim Novo’s “About the Blog”, which I don’t think would qualify as a post, but I was totally flabergasted. I think Jim has written the Novum Organum of our field. He should re-publish it as a post so that we can all comment and debate.

    2) Could not comment on Jim’s, but did on one of Gary Angel’s.

    3)I think Gary really works hard and is a superb thinker. This is primary my reason for commenting. I truly believe that we need to discuss/debate more in order to bring our field (web analytics/interactive marketing) forward, and the blogs out there are good instruments. However, I don’t think they’re perfect because of their ephemeral nature. Forums are maybe better suited.

  5. 1. Yes – several.

    2. No.

    3. I can’t say, though I agree with Meredith who noted some blogs make it tedious to do so. Hmm. It never occurred to me that I really hadn’t left many comments. Perhaps it’s because I think they’ll suck … much like this one. Interestingly (or maybe not), I most always read comments – even when it requires another click to do so.

  6. 1) Yes
    2) No
    3) It’s a time issue, and I didn’t really think my comments mattered. Plus, I had a blog of my own for awhile and I ended up with some crazed woman that wouldn’t quit emailing me her comments and questions.

  7. 1. Yes

    2. No.

    3. In general, I feel that comments along the lines of “right on” or “That’s exactly what I think” are banal. Also, a statement of, “Gee that’s interesting” is hardly worth reading. None of this applies if you wrote the post, of course – then such comments are manna from Heaven. But I tend to feel that a comment has to provide significant insight to justify itself. To really feel justified in commenting, either I have to disagree with the post on some issue, or have a distinction or definition to inject into the conversation, or some kind of experience that will add context or confirmation to the post. On a rare occasion, a post will blow me away and I’ll just cheer it on (especially if I admire the poster) but that doesn’t happen all that often.

    I wonder if extroverts are more likely to post? In writing this, it struck me that as an introvert, I usually want to more fully digest what I’ve read before commenting. And by then it feels like it is too late. Hmmmm. What do you think?

  8. Right on! That’s exactly what I think, Jeff!

  9. 1. Yes.
    2. No.
    3. If I am a long time reader of a content source and believe that my input (if used) would make the content better, more complete, or allow others to expand on the article if they wish; I comment.

    It’s about ROI: You want my time? You want my insight? You want my opinion? Where is my return? You have to build up credit with me first.

    You are the ones that chose to offer “free content”, not me. When I have gained more from you than my comment costs me, you’ll get it. Not before.

  10. 1. yes
    3. I rarely, like .25 percent of the time even glance at comments so I have no inclination to leave one. This would be on written postings. However, I have left comments on websites like deviantart on a photograph, being a photographer. I do see that a lot of people leaving posts do it for reasons other than a fresh comment, there is often an ulterior motive of internet traffic to their own site or building up their own insightful rep. Commenting on a friends site to help, like this, also happens.

  11. 1) Yes
    2) No
    3) Often, typing a thought out seems to be time-intensive and a bit personal. I write, I proof, I re-write, I proof again, and then I begin to question the validity of my response. Kind of like this one where I’m currently rethinking what I’m type. In addition, my writing is an extension of my name and once it’s posted on a site or on paper, it’s known and will never have the chance to bend in my mind again. But hey, I’m an introvert and a hard right-brainer.

    I too, don’t like to leave bogus “Hey, that’s great” comments… but I have… in support of a person I know. It comes down to two things: 1) time 2) the fear of what may be tacked onto my name.

    Just think of the ramblings in my head as I click “Submit Comment.” Why I’m posting here… huh, because a friend of a friend and a colleague asked me too.

  12. 1) Yes
    2) No
    3) Several reasons. One, I prefer to glean what I can from the post and move on down the road. I know that’s selfish but I often feel too busy to take time to add my two cents. Not to mention on some level I don’t feel I could possibly add value by simply sharing my opinion. Nor do I typically read other people’s comments. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the potential for value in them. The only time I find myself interested in a bunch of random opinions is if I’m looking to buy something.

  13. 1. Yes.
    2. Yes – that’s half the fun ;)
    3. Generally I’ll leave a comment to a post if I found the content to be particularly interesting. It’s fun to see the conversation unfold and to get a little more insight into what the original post (or other comments) were all about. Like with most content, not every angle/perspective/question can be touched on in a quick post. Being able to interact, ask a question or give a perspective, is fun.

  14. 1. Many, many posts

    2. Only a few comments, relatively

    3. More often, I tend to comment in two cases: when someone asks for support or I disagree strongly on the subject.

    Example 1: A blogger reposted a Salon review of 300. It was the worst review of a movie ever, missing salient points and completely making up nonexistent support for their biased opinion. So I posted a response that, despite my own personal bias of having enjoyed the movie, I hope discouraged people from believing the original author’s tripe.

    Example 2: A colleague asked me to post here. (Also when personal blogs seems to require emotional support.)

  15. 1. Yes
    2. Rarely
    3. Why don’t I add comments more often?
    a) when a blog hits a hot button, an issue that I’m passionate about and I feel that I should stand up for it or stand against it I will comment.
    b) I generally do not add comments because it isn’t that important for me to look really smart or really dumb.
    c) I responded to this because it asked specific questions and asked for my opinion.

  16. 1. Yes

    2. Sometimes.

    3. I am very careful about what I post, I plan to be relevant online for some time, and want to ensure I don’t post something that would relegate me to anything but relevant.


  17. 1) Yes.
    2) No.
    3) Most of the blogs (or rather, sites with user comments) I read are pretty high traffic. (Think Digg, Slashdot, or Woot.) With the high volume of comments already available to read, I hardly think that my one-sentence response will add that much value to others’ experience of the site. Only when I think that I have more insight than just one sentence do I feel like I should add my two cents into the thousand-dollar pot.

  18. 1. Yes. I’d say 90% of the posts I read were interesting to me. While most of the blogs I visit regularly are on topics that interest me, I also enjoy visiting new (to me) blogs–on all kinds of topics–just to broaden my horizons, see what other bloggers are doing, and learn about the fascinating things that are out there.

    2. Yes.

    3. For various reasons, most of which Chris mentioned in his article. I’ve commented to say how much I appreciate a post and what it’s taught me; to add my own perspective to the post; to strongly agree (or disagree) with a post; to ask the author if I could include the post in my newsletter; etc.

    I believe that, while blogging is (usually) an individual, solitary activity, most of us enjoy the “virtual” social interaction we achieve through commenting. When we reach out to others in this way, we’re sharing our experiences, knowledge, likes, dislikes… just as we would with our friends and families. Even bloggers are social animals! :-)

  19. 1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. I usually comment on blog posts that I find interesting or have something to add to.

  20. 1. Yes
    2. Yes, but only this one.
    3. I have noticed that sometimes it takes a comment or two to act as a catalyst for more, and it helps if the author jumps back in with responses to comments. If the blog service doesn’t provide feedback to the original author, comments will likely languish.

  21. 1. Yes
    2. Depends.
    3. If the post is really really good (as an extrovert: I´ll usually praise it), even tought I risk myself looking as a “fan” of the poster or the topic of the post. On the other hand, if I find a post with an atractive title; I read it; I find it interesting and useful, I want to comment; but if it was written in a way that I can´t say nothing about it (like in a live conversation when someone says an opinion and you fell you can´t say nothing more than: “I aggre” or “you are right”) I´ll just stare numb and “ido” at the screen without writting and looking at the cursor and as it blinks patienly; I´ll say inside my head “I aggre”, but won´t write it down, clicking back to whatever I was doing before. Is it the way the post was written for response?

  22. > 1. Have you read any posts (anywhere) in the last week that you found interesting?

    Yes, of course. I can’t seem to STOP finding things that are interesting.

    > 2. If you found something interesting, did you comment on it?
    > 3. If yes, why? If no, why not? (feel free to provide examples)

    Yes, but I have to admit in my most recent comment from yesterday, it was just a quick comment to let the blogger know that I had linked to their post. (Which she thanked me for doing so by posting a comment on my post about her.)

    For the most part, I share the same attitude as Tiff (“Only when I think that I have more insight than just one sentence do I feel like I should add my two cents into the thousand-dollar pot.”) and Tim (“It never occurred to me that I really hadn’t left many comments. Perhaps it’s because I think they’ll suck…”) and Tim again (“Right on! That’s exactly what I think, Jeff!”) hehe… ;)

  23. The blog medium, like discussion groups before it and talk radio before discussion groups, is always comprised mostly of lurkers who will not contribute and are simply seeking information.

    In terms of gross volume of comments, I’d guess the primary reason people comment is to post backlinks / get audience for their own blogs. These are typically the “Yea, man” comments or “Seth Godin wrote about” posts with trackbacks that do not really contribute to the intellectual exchange and were banned in Discussion Groups a decade ago (remember “Please read the FAQ”? Ron Shevlin calls these folks “Fume Bloggers” in a Comment on the MineThatData blog:

    (see how I got a link in?)

    because they basically have no real ideas of their own and comment simply to comment and gain audience.

    The second, and much smaller group of Commentors is made up of people with something to add, a question, or a rebuttal of the post, true seekers of intellectual exchange. These interactions are where new ideas are born, refined, and exchanged.

    Thanks for the kind words on my “About” page Jacques, your wish is my command:

    Oops, I did it again…

  24. 1. Have you read any posts (anywhere) in the last week that you found interesting?

    Yes, hundreds!

    2. If you found something interesting, did you comment on it?

    I comment on a small fraction of stuff I read.

    3. If yes, why? If no, why not? (feel free to provide examples)

    Lack of time is to blame, usually. If I feel I can offer additional insight or play a devil’s advocate, I do comment. Also (to my shame), I seem to comment more when I am bored.

  25. This morning, while trying to settle a music trivia argument, I found myself looking at a bootleg video of a 1968 Vanella Fudge performance on a popular social networking site.

    Other people had commented, including an idiot that needed to be put in his place. I would have done so, but the site required me to register. Frankly, I had no emotional investment in this argument and didn’t care enough to go through anyone’s registration process.

    So, I merely went away, quietly.

    For the more anal of the analytics:

    1. yes
    2. yes
    3. no

  26. 1.Yes
    3.I find most comments asinine and those who leave them to be ranting fools with little new insight. Therefore, it is my belief that most people would rather simply read the article material (which is spell checked and written by a professional writer), and ignore the mind-numbing drivel that follows. This comment is, perhaps, no exception.

  27. 1.Yes
    3. The tone of the article has a lot to do with if I comment or not. Most of the time if I find something interesting its just an article. It seems like people seem more likely to comment if your write in a more conversational tone, and leave open questions that they feel they have a valuable input on. This post is a perfect example, not only do you encourage people to comment, but it feels like your getting something in return by saying why you post and reading others responses.

  28. 1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. I commented so others would see that I commented. Not b/c of the profoundness of my comment, but in an effort to promote more comments. My hope is that others will likewise comment in the post. As I’m trying to build readership, saying something further validates not only that post, but maybe markets my own posts a bit too (b/c my name is there in the comment).

  29. Whoops…I meant to provide the link to my posts.
    Now the link is proper.
    Thanks…please comment.

  30. 1. Yes
    2. No

    I don’t comment because I see no value to me to do so. WIIFM. I know that’s selfish but hey this is business and I need to see a direct ROI for everything I do. Besides when I tried to comment previously, (see above)I screwed it up because the dialog box doesn’t work like word. If you guys were not my friends I would not have commented on yours either.

  31. Blog commenting only makes sense when the blog post is such that it begins a conversation of some sort.

    In that way, a blog with comments is somewhat similar to a message board/forum. It differs though in that the “conversation” is not “threaded”.

    Perhaps it is more like “poll” where people get to speak out.

    Most blog posts probably don’t get comments either because the posts aren’t really written in way that starts a conversation (either intentionally or not), lack of sufficient traffic, or both.

    I rarely comment on blogs, because I am normally not being asked for my input by the nature of the post.

    I find blog comments that amount to a bunch of “That’s great!” comments to be a real waste of my attention, and annoying.

    I commented on this blog posted because I was *asked* and because this is something I have an opinion on that I wanted to share.

  32. I have read many interesting posts, but I have only posted twice (to two seperate blogs).

    I go to blogs to hear what people have to say without asking them: either I am looking for information beyond my scope (how to install a short throw shifter into a 2004 Subaru Forester), or I am looking for what new ideas have street cred.

    When I post to a blog, it is because I feel that I have something to offer to the “conversation”. It is either directly related to something I am in the midst of, or it is in area that I consider myself to be knowledgable. There has to be a connection to the blog (for me); I need to feel that I belong to the community before I post.

    Blogs can often read like the minutes to a meeting were everyone came late (rehashing same content). Hope this helps.

  33. Clay sez
    1 yes
    2 No I did not post any reply
    3 I probably would reply more often If prompted. As you did.
    I will certainly start encouraging people to comment more on my posts. Most of the time I’m in a hurry. I have commented but it’s rare.And I don’t think a trite bland comment serves any purpose. If I was going to comment I’d probably have to think about it too long.

  34. 1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. I’ll contribute if I think I have something substantive to contribute to the conversation- additional facts, data, etc. or if I think there’s an alternate viewpoint worth considering.

  35. 1. Yes, several.
    2. Yes, on one.
    3. To say goodbye to a friend that is moving from Austin to San Francisco.

    I feel a sronger need to comment the more comments I read (for example, this post). I find this no different than the social need to share my expertise and help others. I am an Evangelist/Maven and an ENTJ (Myers-Briggs), so this makes sense to me and I don’t fight it.

    I also wrote a post summarizing what I believe makes people comment (as well as write reviews and contribute to a community in other forms) here:

  36. 1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. I usually find I comment when I want to encourage an excellent writer and thinker to keep posting great stuff like one I just read. Even when I disagree with a post, the great blogs make me feel welcome to add comments in a respectful way. Sometimes, I’ll add my own experience with the topic just to add dimension, hopefully encouraging other readers to comment as well.

  37. My good friend from the north, Mitch Joel, adds to and continues the discussion at . Check it out.

  38. 1. Yes

    2. Yes

    3. I will comment to thank the writer if I like the post or writing.

    I’ll comment if I know additional and relevant links.

    When the writer asks for comments, I’m more inclined to give them (like here!). And, when the style of the post is conversational, I am more open to commenting.

    And, it helps if the blog post is on a subject I’m passionate about.

    If the author of the blog interacts with commenters and pays attention to them, I’ll post a comment. If they seem to ignore comments, I won’t bother commenting.

  39. 1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. I try to add some comments to get more posts to the comments. This helps the blog become more popular. I’ve been to established blogs that have good content but no commentary. I’ve even recieved emails from bloggers thanking me for commenting on their blogs.

  40. 1. Yes
    2. Yes, this blog. :)
    3. I am new to blogging (my blog, launched last week). but i have been a commenter on other industry blogs. Usually I do it (when I have time) in order to spur discussion on a topic, or to brainstorm with my colleagues. I only do it if I have a value-add to the conversation. My comments on Cost Per News have been picked up nicely in google as well (not that I did it for self promotion), but I was impressed to see that. I also really appreciate the culture of sharing and kindness among bloggers. Most people are willing to help you out (as a newbie) and have really appreciated my thoughts and feedback. It’s kind of like asking a question at an industry conference – which I always do. I’m a curious person! And I like to stir things up.

  41. [...] On Wednesday, Bryan Eisenberg asked a very important question about the nature of blogging: "What Makes You Comment?" [...]

  42. A previous commenter had a good point, sometimes you simply need to ask! A reminder that I intend to take advantage of soon ;)

  43. 1- yes
    2- no
    3- I read a lot of posts each week. If I find myself reading someone’s articles over and over again, I will post a comment to encourage them.

    Most good writers on the net may have great readership, butif you were to judge them by the comments posted, you would think no one read them.

    Even the thumbs up/thumbs down on American Small Business doesn’t give us a true picture of readership. Clicking to rate the article takes too much valuable time-the delay is too long and you could have read another article by the time your rating goes through. Steve

  44. There needs to be a better way of tracking comments than having to check back on the specific article. Also I only really comment on blogs that have a community of people I relate to. Then I actually care about what they have to say and it also makes me want to contribute.

  45. Seni, that makes perfect sense. Comments are a form of community and not having a connection to the community wouldn’t make it very attractive to participate. I agree about the having to check back on comments. There are blogs that have some alternative solutions but none are very good.

  46. 1-I read anything I find written by Bryan or Jeffrey. I always learn something. Just read Bryan’s article re: marketing free content.
    3-It struck me as so true and so ignored by the people I interact with. Everyone is so caught up in flash and fancy graphics, they’ve forgotten their goal is to sell (whether its free or fee).
    I think the most-commented-on bloggers are those that pose a question and invite feedback. Most bloggers just make statements, which mainly invite those banal comments (as Jeff pointed out), and do not encourage insightful comments.

  47. 1) yes
    2) some yes, some no
    3) I comment if it is significant to me in some way – moving or informative. However, if there are lengthy and extremely opinionated comments already, I usually leave. I don’t usually join a conversation with strangers online unless I have a unique viewpoint or something to add. I rarely would consider registering to comment. I read so much that I’d say I comment on less than 1%.

  48. I rarely comment. Generally the most obvious comments are at the beginning, so I might read the first couple. Past that I have to read all the rest to make sure I am not just parroting someone else. That gets to be work.

  49. 1. Have you read any posts (anywhere) in the last week that you found interesting?
    Yes, many

    2. If you found something interesting, did you comment on it?

    3. If yes, why? If no, why not? (feel free to provide examples)
    I comment if my comment is a contribution to the topic (I won’t comment just to say it’s interesting), if I know the blogger or if a reaction/opinion is asked in the post. My last comment besides this one was on a blog that was asking for links to video mashups.

  50. [...] I do care. What do you think about what Joel Stein has to say in his column? No Tags [...]

  51. 1) Yes
    2) Sometimes
    3) When the blogs are part of a niche carnival that I participate in occasionally, I try to go out of my way to comment. Since the carnival is promoting community, I want to do my part to support dialogue and hopefully encourage the same when one of my posts is in the carnival.

  52. 1) Yes, on many blogs.
    2) Sometimes
    3) I generally comment on a blog whenever I think very highly of the blog post or it has provided some new insight or link. I also try to say “why” the post was helpful/useful/interesting. If all I can really say is “Great post!”, I may or may not post that. The reasons I do NOT leave a comment are generally either: a) lack of time (the usual case); or b) registration requirements that will take me time to get set up. I just want to pop in and leave a comment… if I have to work at it to leave a comment, I probably won’t.

  53. 1. I frequently stumble across blogs or other articles that are interesting, no doubt about that.

    2. However, I seldom ever post a comment. (This is probably the 2nd or 3rd comment I posted, ever.)

    First of all, some sites ask that you be “logged in” or “registered” before you post a comment, and that is a big turn off, especially when logging in or registering means providing up to 7-10 pieces of informations which is very time consuming.

    Also, I seriously question how valued the comments posted by readers are. Many a times I would come across good articles running into a few pages. At the end of it all, you find people posting comments such as “Great entry!” and the likes.

    If I really feel strongly about an issue highlighted in an article I read online, I would have wrote my own articles airing my views and then tagged it to the original article, right?

    Hope my comments made sense.

  54. Mr Eisenberg,

    Maybe you can start another tread, and ask people what they were thinking when they post comments like “Great entry!” and other one liners. I sure would like to find out too!

    P.s. My guess is, they want to be seen. Riding on a bloggers visibility. Could be some kind of fetish!

  55. Bryan…don’t know if you remember me from the SilentFrog days,but anyway…great to see you guys prospering.

    On the topic of commenting…I read Fred Wilson’s blog often and like to comment,but I wonder if the comment verification is a barrier for some people. the 1 out of 7 or 8 times when I can’t decipher the letters before the post is published is irritating. I wonder if it’s enough to put off others?

    Is that a comment conversion barrier?

  56. Jeremy,

    I do remember meeting for lunch. Absolutely,
    it is a conversion barrier.

  57. Ready for Pay-Per-Comment?…

    In my own browsing of the archives of DaveNet, I came across this fascinating post by Esther Dyson from December 1, 1994 which introduces an idea we may now call pay-per-comment. One could also argue that the post actually anticipates……

  58. Nice article Bryan as well as nice site. Your comments in my blog have surely brought me here :p so you have got one more permanent reader now!

  59. 1. Yes – several.
    2. No.
    3. I will certainly start encouraging people to comment more on my posts. I have commented but it’s rare. And I don’t think a trite bland comment serves any purpose.

  60. I’m tempted to answer the question ‘What Makes You Comment?’ with ‘this does’ but luckily I’ve resisted the temptation through sheer willpower.

    1: I read posts all the time that I find interesting. I’m rarely inclined to comment, however.

    Firstly, the insular, cliquey nature of many blogs means that were I to comment, my opinion would hold little or no weight.

    Secondly, my viewpoint has usually been expressed before I’ve had a chance to comment. ‘I agree’ adds little or nothing to the conversation, as, um, someone seems to have already said here.

  61. Mark,

    You have demonstrated great willpower. :-)

    Consider your opinion on this blog weightier than on others.

    I do understand how you feel. I too hesitate to comment if I have nothing to add although sometimes, if I agree strongly, I may say so.

  62. 1 Yes
    2 Yes
    3 Prompted to comment because another accountant did

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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