Let users subscribe to replies-only in Replyable 2.2

The newest version of Replyable is available now and brings with it a few new modes for powering comment subscriptions.

How Replyable has always handled active conversations

By default Replyable uses two systems to make sure nobody gets too much email.

First, it judges if a comment is worthy by performing length, relevance, and reading level. Those that don’t make the cut won’t be sent to subscribers.

Second, Replyable is smart about how much email it is sending. If a post gets too chatty it will either pause subscriptions (in the free version) or switch to a daily digest mode (on paying plans) that sends only 1 email every 24 hours with all new comment activity.*

This system works great for small and mid-sized sites but what if you are subscribed to 15 active conversations on the same site? That means on a good day you’re still going to get 15 emails from Replyable. Eh. Not so good on large sites.

* When one of these modes is active direct replies are still sent immediately to the person being replied to. Nifty.

Switch things up and send replies only

New in Replyable 2.2 is the ability to enable replies-only mode. You’ll find it in the plugin settings. Once enabled, subscribers will receive only direct replies to their comments via email. No other chatter. No daily digests.

Once enabled all legacy comment subscriptions will switch to replies-only and the tooltip on your comment form will change to let users know what’s up.

The risk of going replies-only

For most small to medium sized sites we don’t think replies-only is a good fit. It has been the #1 request of larger sites though. The reason we’re cautious is because of fragmentation within the conversation.

Danny Brown says it best in a comment on our Spring Postmatic Update:

I’m not too keen on the Direct Replies Only option – for me, it’s essentially reverting blog conversations to siloed conversations, which benefits no-one. A number of times I’ve had extra conversations spring up after a comment digest has gone out shows the value of open conversations.

That is a fair word of warning, but which brought us to our next idea…

Replies-only + Daily Digest mode!

As a kind of middle ground between replies-only mode and the default behavior we’ve made it possible to send direct replies to comment subscribers, but also keep them in the loop at the end of the day with everything else they missed in the conversation. We’ll probably make a tidy checkbox to enable this in the future, but for now all you need to do is set the trigger for Comment Digests to 1. That will do the trick.

By setting Comment digests to 1 you can send replies-only but also deliver a daily digest of new comment activity to each subscriber.

We hope these three possibilities let you find a comment subscription setup that works for your community. As always, reach out if you need any help, ideas, or have an idea for a feature.

Do Blog Comments Offer Any Business Value?

For most bloggers, comments can be hit and miss affairs.

Often, we publish a post and think, “Damn, I nailed that one!” and then see little to zero comments afterward, and feel deflated.

Or, we can publish a quick post that we feel is almost like a throwaway, as opposed to the more thoughtful example above, and it gets hundreds of comments.

To be sure, the science of blog commenting can be anything but scientific!

However, content aside when it comes to attracting comments, there’s a key reason why we should be looking at comments more seriously, and that’s in the way they can be used to add business value.

Social Proof and Sponsorships

In recent years, the attraction of sponsored posts has resulted in a whole new industry, that of influencer bloggers.

In the past, this may have solely meant bloggers with huge online followings and “leading blogs” – you know, the ProBloggers and Copybloggers of the world.

Now, however, thanks in no small part to influencer platforms like InkyBee and Triberr, everyday bloggers can be influencers, as brands realize it’s less about the followers and more about the interaction.

For example, a mommy blogger that has an engaged community in the comment section and a relevant target audience is far more attractive to a brand than a “celebrity blogger” who’s just doing it for the money, with zero brand affiliation.

To help identify these “micro-influencer” bloggers, influence platforms score blogs based on a variety of metrics,  which increasingly include an engagement score.

A healthy comment section can be a key metric for brands looking to sponsor bloggers. Click To Tweet

And you don’t even have to have hundreds of comments – just a vibrant conversation area, with discussions that enable sponsoring brands to truly learn about their customers.

Which leads us to the next point.

Comments as a Business Resource

When social media grew in popularity, it was lauded for its ability to connect customers to the brands they shopped with.

That was all well and good – until social essentially became a trolling marketplace. Now, businesses are missing a lot of the conversations they could be having because they’re too busy trying to put out non-essential fires caused by trolls.

It can leave customers to feel like they’re not being heard, which for any business is the worst feeling you can give customers (especially when it’s not your fault).

If a visitor arrives on your blog and sees a back-and-forth discussion, it immediately instills a perception that this is a business that cares about its customers.

In addition, it offers a valuable insight tool to the business itself:

  • Pre-sales questions can be answered in public, leading to warmer sales opportunities;
  • Feedback on product launches can be gathered and optimized;
  • Other customers can offer their take, and give a better referral than any ad ever could.

This isn’t just for big business blogs, either. Independent authors, freelance designers, beach diner owners, etc. All of these business blogs, and more like them, can benefit from a healthy comment section.

Why Email to Comments is a Perfect Fit for Business

So, by now hopefully, you see the value of comments not only to personal bloggers, but business blogs as well. But, like others before you, you’re not really sure where to start in fostering these comments.

This is why our vision for comments is so tied to email, because it’s still the #1 communication tool for businesses, and the buy-in is minimal for both content creator and content reader.

After all, pretty much everyone knows how to use email. It’s familiar, it’s easy, and it allows for more thoughtful sharing of ideas and opinions – exactly what a healthy comment section needs.

It’s also really easy to manage, from phone to desktop and everywhere in-between – which, for any business not too familiar with the nuances of social media, makes for less work, which is always a good thing.

We’ve seen with our own users just how they’ve utilized our comment plugins for their business goals – let us help you, too.

It’s not as daunting as you think, and we’re here every step of the way for you.

Featured image credit: Rusty Russ Sunrise Over Manhattan Again

Can We Stop Calling It Blog Commenting Now?

Think of the last time you got together with friends, or family, or even colleagues from work.

You enjoyed the company, you laughed, you caught up on missed life events, and basically had a really good time. Hopefully, right?

As you reflect on that time together, there’s probably a good chance that the key takeaway for everyone is that you all enjoyed the great company and conversations.

Because, let’s face it, conversations – and those that help make us more educated, or filled in, or even better people – can make all the difference between a drab experience and a fun one.

So why don’t we treat blog comments the same way? In fact, why do we continue to even call them comments when, in truth, they’re very much the same as the awesome conversations we have offline?

We Don’t Just Comment Our Way Through Life

Ever since blogs were set up to enable comments in the Web 2.0 era, they’ve been a mainstay of many a blog. And rightly so.

From opening up an extended dialogue around the post itself to fostering friendships within the blog’s community, blog comment sections have been one of the unsung “heroes” of the blogging world.

And yet…. all too often, they’re either looked upon with disdain due to the belief it’s just a breeding ground for immature trolls or spammers, or they’re ignored as being a tacked-on surplus area that no-one really cares about.

The first reason is down to the blogger – yes, there are trolls and spammers, but if you really care about your blog and your audience, you’ll handle these issues the way they should be dealt with. The technology exists.

The second reason is a fair one – and, for me, it’s all down to the use of the words “blog comments”. Specifically, comments.

Think back to the opening part of this post, and the example of a great time with people you like, and the wonderful conversations that sprung from that.

Now, imagine if, when looking back, you’d described the evening as “oh, yes, we all commented really well together, and left such great comments after everyone had said their piece.”

How ridiculous does that sound? Right? Stupid ridiculous!

So why do we take conversations after our posts and call them comments? Because that’s exactly what we should be calling comments – conversations.

Blog comments are true conversations, pure and simple. It's time to start treating them as such. Click To Tweet

Comments, by perception, are throwaway snippets of soundbites that are soon forgotten.

Conversations, on the other hand, are true one-to-one and one-to-many sharing of thoughts, agreements, disagreements and more, and can live as long as there’s a new thought shared.

And comments as email? They don’t get much more conversational than that.

It’s Time to Shift the Comment Mindset

Although a couple of years old now, there’s a reason The Atlantic called email “the best thing on the Internet”.

From that piece:

Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled “web we lost.” It’s an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services.

Simply put, it’s the simplicity – and, most importantly of all, privacy – of email that enables true conversations to take place, as opposed to the guarded, stilted ones that can be found on social media and groups.

Email’s usage is ubiquitous across so many cultures and generations, and the buy-in is minimal. And that fact you’re sitting in a comfy spot to send and reply to an email makes it easier to settle into a “this is a personal conversation” mindset.

We’ve seen it with both Postmatic and now Replyable.

Comments are thoughtful. Caring. Educational. Raw. Real. Honest. Fun. Happy. Encouraging. And so much more.

Because if there’s one thing we truly believe here, “blog comments” are deserving of so much more than the reputation and perception they have.

They’re more than a breeding ground for waste and hostility. They’re more than a throwaway line at a second-rate comedy open night.

They’re true conversations, pure and simple. It’s time to start treating them as such. Those bloggers that already know that are seeing the benefits, with deep, long, and connected conversations that make their content rise to a new level.

We’re here to help you start reimagining conversations on your blog, and what that can mean for your goals.

Ready to get started?

Switch to native WordPress comments, without letting down your Disqus users

Have  you recently migrated from Disqus to native WordPress Comments? Cool. We’re glad to have you back.

One feature your commenters probably liked best about Disqus was that they could comment easily on your site without having to fill out their name, email, and website. Disqus let’s users sign in using their social profiles from places like Twitter, Facebook, and Google. That’s pretty handy.

You can recreate that experience on your site using any number of social login/authentication plugins such as our own Postmatic Social Commenting. But. We just ran across an interesting idea that is especially nifty if you used to use Disqus.

Let users log in with their Disqus account to leave a native comment on your site

WordPress Social Login with Facebook and Disqus enabled.

WordPress Social Login is a plugin that lets users comment using their social profiles. It also now supports Disqus logins. If your commenters used to enjoy signing in using their Disqus account, they still can. But you can use native comments and still own your data. Win. It’s kind of the best of both worlds.

The featured image to this post is a recent weekend here in Vermont. Spring is a bit grumpy this year.

If You Want Better Comments, You Have to Care About Your Commenters

A little while back, I wrote a post over on my own blog about how it wasn’t social media that would “kill blog comments”, but uncaring bloggers.

It was in response to a lot of bloggers complaining about their reduced comment counts, and how they were primarily blaming social media for the lack of engagement on their own blogs.

My primary takeaway was this:

It’s not as clear-cut as “all the conversations are happening on social media”. They may well be happening a lot – but guess where that traffic will come to when users want to see the source of that discussion?

Once that traffic arrives, if they find a comments area that looks as fun and inviting as a McDonald’s restaurant does to a food snob, of course they’ll leave immediately.

If, on the other hand, they see a blog that opens up to others, and – imagine this! – actively converses with them, they’ll stay. Comment. Reply. Subscribe.

Social media won’t “kill” blog comments – bloggers will.

The post sparked a very thoughtful conversation around the topic of comments, and bloggers in general. The key consensus was bloggers who either close down comments or, worse, ignore their commenters are the ones that will lose out more in the long run.

So it’s a little disappointing to see, a full year after that post, so many bloggers who still don’t seem to value their commenters.

A Bunch of Unmoderated Spam Does Not a Community Make

I was doing some research for a future post on the state of commenting today, and a bunch of results popped up about comments and their place in today’s content ecosystem.

(For the record, my own take for the last year or so is that perhaps “blog comments” as a description for conversation is the issue, but more on that in a future post).

One of the results that popped up was this post by Jeff Goins, entitled Seven Types of Blog Comments and How to Respond to Them.

It’s a guest post by blogger Jeremy Myers that shares the most common types of blog comments, and how to respond to them (or if you even should).

As of writing this, the post has received 337 comments and counting. Pretty impressive, huh? Until you start going through the comments themselves…

As you can see, this comments section is a spammers paradise.

While there are some genuine comments about implementing the advice in the post, most are back-links to the commenter’s own site.

Some are questionable – the Facebook video downloader app, for example, and the link to an escort site – while others could land Jeff in major trouble (the one about a realtor from RE/MAX being accused of being a pedophile).

Why would Jeff get in trouble? Blog comments are the ownership of the blogger, and it’s up to you (the blogger) to make sure there’s nothing illegal or libelous within them.

Did you know that you're legally liable for comments left on your blog? Click To Tweet

In fairness, this particular post was published back in 2011, so perhaps Jeff simply doesn’t monitor it anymore. That being said, a libel suit wouldn’t really care when the post was published, if false statements are left unchecked in the comment section.

Continue the Way You Started

One of the more common “problems”, for want of a better word, is that a lot of bloggers start out with good intentions when it comes to commenting, and then let that drop off as they focus on other things.

When they first started blogging, for example, they would respond to all relevant comments (ones that go beyond a standard “nice post!” variation).

Then, they either feel less need to reply, and leave the commenters to talk to each other, or they simply give up replying full-stop, and request commenters to find them on social to discuss the post.

While there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with either approach, for the most part, both lead to a sense of disappointment for the commenters.

With the first example, most commenters leave a comment because the post moved them to reply, and they’d love to share their thoughts with the blogger and get feedback directly from the blogger in question.

When that doesn’t happen, it makes it less compelling to leave a comment, even though some of the best exchanges can come from the community taking the topic in a new direction in the comments and running with it together.

The latter example, though, often invokes a strong reaction. In the comments of one of my recent posts, a long-time commenter on my blog shared her thoughts on “taking the conversation to social media”.

If you invite me to your house and I get all dressed up, fill the tank with gas and head out, only to get there and see a note on your door saying, “I’ve decided to go over to XYZ’s house, you know where she lives, follow me there”. I would politely scribble “screw you” on the note and leave.

It is so arrogant for bloggers to believe their subscribers will follow them where ever they go. If I’m subscribed to your blog why do I need to follow you somewhere else to hear you say the same thing? It’s ridiculous.

Not a lot more I can add to that! But she makes a great point – you’re forcing your commenters through extra hoops just to engage with you.

And what if they moved away from social media channels because of abuse they were getting there, or some other reason? Not everyone wants to put up with the noise and fast-paced nature of social media just to be able to converse with their favorite blogger.

Your blog is your property, where you can control the environment for your visitors – why force people away from that safety net?

You Have to Care. Really Care

Blogging has come a long way since the 1990’s, and as blogging has evolved so has commenting.

From non-threaded design that took a masters degree to identify who was replying to who, to the various commenting options we have today, there really is something for every kind of blogger (and commenter).

But to really make commenting work, you need to work on it yourself.

  • Don’t take the easy route and force comments to be where they don’t want to.
  • Own the conversation, and take ownership on making comments a welcoming place.
  • Clean your comment area, instead of leaving open to spam, crud, and potential legal issues.
  • Most of all, respond. Commenters have chosen your part of the web over millions of others – respect that accordingly.

And if you really feel taking care of comments is too much hard work, you should talk to us. We have resources and plugins to help and are always here to do so.

A Bunch of Unmoderated Spam Does Not a Community MakeClick To Tweet

How to Optimize Replyable for You and Your Readers

We’ll be honest – we’re a little bit biased here when we say Replyable is one of the best blog comment and engagement solutions around.

Yes, it’s our product so we’re bound to say that! But looking at various reviews and blog posts around the web on our parent product, Postmatic, from which Replyable was born, and you can see it’s not just us who feel this way.

Based on reviews like these, and the feedback we received from Postmatic users, we decided to build our Replyable product to laser focus on blog engagement, without all the other bells and whistles that come with Postmatic.

However, as much as we’ve simplified Replyable, there can still be instances when new users (either bloggers or commenters) are unsure of the whole user experience.

After all, we’ve grown up accustomed to on-page commenting, so having blog conversations through email can be confusing at first.

That’s why we’ve decided to share our top three ways to optimize Replyable, and get the best out of it for you and your readers.

Step 1: Publish a Framing Post

Given that it can be quite a jump to get into the mindset of commenting via email, it’s always a good idea to publish a framing post when you first start to use Replyable.

There are a bunch of benefits for doing this:

  • Explain why you’re making the change
  • Allay fears that a commenter will receive too many emails
  • Advise that web commenting will still be available for those that prefer it

It also helps you get the first comments up and running with Replyable – you can finish the post off with a “Ready to try it out? Leave a comment below then wait for an emailed reply!”

It’s a nice ice-breaker, as well as a call-to-action to encourage commenting via email from the off. Here’s a snippet of an example from my own blog.

While this speaks to Postmatic, you get a  feel for the points you need to get across. Obviously, Replyable just handles the comments, so your own post could be something like:

Commenting here is super simple. Your first comment can be left in the comments box at the end of this post, but then you’ll start receiving useful replies via email. Simply hit “Reply” to that, type your response, hit send and you’re done!

However you wish to word it is down to you and your audience, but explaining the change as well as the features and how to use upfront will make all the difference.

Optimize the Welcome Message

So you’ve installed and activated Replyable, you’ve written your framing post, and you’re ready for the first comment to come through your new system.

While you could just leave things there, there are a few options within the Replyable dashboard that can help you enhance the experience even more for your reader/commenter.

The first is the ability to edit the Welcome message that all first-time commenters will receive.

While you could leave the Replyable default, it’s a lot more personal to include your own, geared towards your readers.

As you can see, it’s a lot more personalized, friendlier, and gives a quick reminder on how to use Replyable as a commenter, as well as advise you won’t be flooding their inboxes with too many emails.

If you want people to comment on your blog, you need to help them understand how easy it is to do so.Click To Tweet

Giving that comfort level can make the difference between a comfortable Replyable user (and thereby frequent commenter), and someone who may shy away from commenting to begin with.

Utilize the Comment Subscription Options

The two simplest, and yet still very effective, options can be found within the Comment Subscriptions tab – the comment form opt-in text, and the comment flood control mentioned above.

The first option allows you to choose what message appears alongside your comment form and can help commenters get an early idea of what to expect with Replyable (before they receive the welcome message).

This is the personalized version on my blog:

As you can see, I give the heads up that commenters can use email to both send and receive new comments via email. The little question mark tooltip expands when you hover over it to go into further detail.

It’s a quick and easy way to start the mindset change of commenting via email.

The second option is the “flood control” one, that lets you set how many comments it takes in an hour to kick in.

Flood control is Replyable’s built-in system to make sure nobody gets too much email. The behavior changes depending on which plan you are on. Users of the free version or on the Conversation Starter or Daily Discourse plans can expect that if a post gets X number of comments per hour the comment subscriptions will automatically be paused.

If you are on the Max Engagement plan instead of pausing the comment subscriptions we’ll instead start sending a daily digest of new comment activity to users.

No matter what your plan is, once flood control has triggered direct replies will still be sent. You can find out more on our support site.

It’s a nice way to let subscribers remain in control at all times, and protect their inboxes from too many emails.

That was an important feature to offer when building this and ensures that the only emails received are the ones commenters really wish to get.

It’s All Down to You

Of course, you can start using Replyable without putting any of these tips into place – that’s the beauty of its simplicity.

And once your readers get into the mindset of commenting via email, you (and they) will soon find it becomes second-nature, and you wonder why it’s taken so long to do so before.

We have conversations via email every day - so why not do the same with blog comments?Click To Tweet

However, seeing the results our users get when they ease their readers into using our service shows it can make a big difference in the uptake of the benefits.

It’s entirely your call, of course – we just want to make sure you get started off on the right foot.

Happy commenting!