The Five Surprising Impacts of Blog Comments

This week I received the 10,000th comment on my blog. That’s a big deal! And while this lucky commenter (who will be named at the end of the post), will receive a $500 prize package (for real!) I’d like to humbly explain why I have completely changed my mind about the importance of blog comments.

When I started blogging, I was disheartened by the unfulfilled expectation of blog comments. Where was the ballyhooed social media “conversation?” This felt more like a string of random observations by strangers.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to my forum … a community bloomed.

By most blog measures, {grow} receives a lot of comments. In 2011, the average is 53 comments per post (many of them mine of course!).  Let’s look beyond the numbers to something fascinating and vital occurring with the comments on {grow}.

1) Comments can create REAL community. 

Some things are happening that are making {grow} feel like a REAL community, not just a string of observations.

  • Work groups have organized outside of the blog based on relationships formed here. For example, folks who met on {grow} have formed a group called the SMB Collective under Jayme Soulati.
  • A similar group who met on {grow} is now hovering around Jon Buscall’s fine blog and supporting his work.
  • Reza L. Malayeri created a charity event in Seattle based on inspiration from people on {grow}.
  • Community member Josh Duncan donated two computers to a charity I work with.
  • The Social Slam event occurring in Knoxville this week was inspired by Arminda Lindsay, who called me and asked me to put together a conference so she could meet the cool people on the blog. Dozens of people on {grow} have become my dear friends. And we’re having a homecoming!

Caring. Creating. Collaborating.  This is not just a string of comments — {grow} is creating powerful human interactions.

2) Comments create economic value. 

Why comment on a blog? Do it for the money! {grow} has been an economic engine for people who care enough to become involved and contribute. People who get to know me and others through the blog comments have received employment, paid freelance assignments, hardware and software to help their careers, free advice on their business, sales leads, guest posts, brand awareness, donations to charitable causes, book contributions, help in research and more. New economic value has been created through blog comments.

3) Comments create strong ties that result in influence.

I haven’t seen any academic research on the topic yet, but there is certainly a lot of anecdotal evidence that the weak ties on Twitter do not necessarily lead to influence. However, I contend the strong ties that develop in blog communities absolutely lead to influence. A number of people have told me I have impacted their lives through the blog. That probably isn’t going to happen on 140 characters or a status update.

4) Comments are an incubator of new content.

Every month, dozens of people write entire blog posts based on their comments on {grow}. Similarly, about 25% of my blog posts are based on comments made by readers. Comment sections are content engines.

5) Comments drive intellectual growth. 

I think I am most proud of the intellectual diversity and debate on {grow}.

An impromptu experiment confirmed that {grow} folks are not a bunch of sycophants.  Awhile back Mitch Joel and I had wildly different views of whether you should be an elitist with your Twitter followers. We both wrote posts with opposite views in the same week.  In a subsequent podcast, Mitch half-jokingly said, “Isn’t it funny that all of your readers agreed with you and all of my readers agreed with me?”

Could that be true? Are the readers of {grow} a bunch of sheep?

I went back and categorized the comments. The results from both blogs were almost identical: more than one-third were in disagreement with the author of the blog, about 15% were neutral and the rest agreed with the author. I think this represents a healthy swath of dissent and confirmed that there is meaningful debate on {grow}.  But you probably already knew that.

This is powerful stuff.

I can only speak for my experience, but the comment section on my blog provides more psychological, economic, intellectual, and emotional benefits of any social media activity … by far.

Watch how this works. When I was nearing comment number 10,000, I sent out a tweet about it and asked folks what I should do. Elizabeth Bushey provided a list of suggestions, including a certificate from a favorite company, VistaPrint.  Just so happens Jeff Esposito, Vistaprint’s Manager for PR & Social Media, is a regular around {grow} and I met him for the first time at SXSW.  I asked him what he thought about helping us celebrate and he said, “SURE!”

And the winner is …

I’m happy to award a $500 VistaPrint credit to commenter number 10,000 – Davina Brewer of Three Hats Marketing. Davina has been an amazing contributor to {grow} for many months now, so this is quite fitting.

So now it’s time for the commenters to comment on commenting, How is it looking from your perspective?

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Vistaprint other than my blog connection with Jeff. But since they have been so nice to help mark this milestone, I’d like to tell you a little about them: Vistaprint empowers more than 9 million small businesses and consumers annually with affordable, professional printed and web-based products that make an impression. With a unique business model supported by proprietary technologies, high-volume production facilities, and direct marketing expertise, Vistaprint offers a wide variety of products and services that fuel business growth.  A global company, Vistaprint employs over 2,700 people, operates 24 localized websites,and ships to more than 120 countries around the world. Products include business cards, website design, postcards, banners and many other essential business communicaiton products.

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