There are many areas of your site where you might want to consider enabling user commenting. The question is, though, should you allow comments at all? For most sites, there is no wrong answer, but when it comes to the agency website, the answer is yes, you should. I have mentioned a few times now that one of the jobs of your site is to thoroughly convey the personality and thoughts of the firm. Your site should engender trust with your visiting prospects, and the best way to do that is to give the site as human a touch as possible. One way to do this is by showing your employees’ faces on the site and making the pictures big enough for viewers to actually see each person’s eyes.
Another way to build trust is to have short and diverse conversations throughout the site. The best way to do that is by allowing comments on key content. Key content might include all of your content strategy elements, although allowing commenting on the portfolio could instigate interesting dialogue, too.
In addition to inviting site visitors to comment on your content, also invite your employees to freely take part in the commenting, both on each other’s writings and replying to outside commenters, regardless of if they wrote the original article or not.
Commenting is something you have the opportunity to get comfortable with and develop over time. You are unlikely to be deluged with thousands of comments the moment you allow site commenting—quite the opposite, in fact.
Unlike a forum, which is dead without a profusion of activity, a newsletter with comment functionality but without any comments is not a black eye. This is a good thing, too, because it may take some time before people start commenting on any of your content. Do not despair, though; you are not writing for the sake of the comments. If you continue to execute a strong content strategy, you will build up a fan base, and fans are likely to comment. The way in which you handle these comments will have a significant effect on the growth of your comment content over time.
When you receive a derogatory comment, delete it. Most commenting tools that you can install or build have notification options. Since you will not be dealing with thousands of comments, I believe it is best to allow comments to be immediately published to the site, instead of being placed into an unpublished review queue. You can set up an email notification that lets the author know anytime someone comments on her post. If anyone makes derogatory comments, she can immediately delete them.
Derogatory means insulting, it does not mean disagreeing. A challenging comment can be a great opportunity because it allows you to convey more of your perspective than was articulated through the original piece of content in question. Always give your fans the benefit of the doubt, assume the best, keep your cool, and be as gracious and edifying as possible. At Newfangled, we have been writing educational newsletters for over ten years now, and we only started receiving comments a few years ago. Today, it is not uncommon for the comment content on a given newsletter to exceed the word count of the newsletter itself. Comment content is just as attractive to Google as any other content on your site. I view all comments as free content that helps our site visitors get a better sense of who we are as people. To me, that is a win-win.
This post is an excerpt from my book, "A Website That Works."