Comment Marketing for Beginners

by Shannon Paul on June 21, 2009

Copyright Dan Jordan

Copyright Dan Jordan

Yes, comment marketing is a real thing. If you’ve started listening to all the discussion in social networks and on blogs about your company and/or industry and you’re wondering what to do with all this new-found intelligence, comment marketing is a great place to start.

Now, let me preface this by saying that most of what passes for comment marketing inside the majority of marketing departments and agencies absolutely sucks. There have been numerous times when I’ve been on the receiving end of horrible attempts at comment marketing — this one of the primary reasons I finally decided to write this post.

Also worth noting: if you work in a particular industry and you leave your marketer hat off when commenting on relevant blog posts with insight and candor, this post is not necessarily for you. Rather, this is a guideline for marketers and PR pros looking to represent their official company position in blogs, forums and social networks while on the clock.

I understand nobody is perfect, but if you tread carefully and respectfully, it’s possible to not only avoid pissing people off, but hopefully you’ll be able to form some really great relationships on behalf of your company or client.

For my purposes, I’ve developed a red light, green light, yellow light approach.

Red Light means STOP!
Green Light means comment, but always comment with care.
Yellow Light means email (or some other means of offline communication) ONLY.

Your company is mentioned in product comparison between Company A and Company B: Green Light

If the blogger is asking for feedback between Company A and Company B and you work for either, feel free to respond, but don’t give the hard sell — be human. Let the blogger know you appreciate their consideration, acknowledge that you can’t speak to the features of the competition, but let them know you would be happy to arrange a special demo/promotion or simply make yourself available by providing your email address or direct phone number. Then, walk away.

Your company is left out of the comparison between Company A and Company B: Yellow Light*

If I’m asking about for feedback about Competitor A vs. Competitor B and you work for Competitor C, stay away from the comments section altogether

Nothing makes your company look worse than an appeal to “take a look at what we have to offer instead of the other two you mention…” It seems desperate. In this case, it’s also likely that the blogger already ruled your company out and is seeking feedback directly related to the two companies mentioned.

If you really feel compelled to reach out, do so via email. Most blogs have a means of contacting the author (my email address is visible in the sidebar of my blog). Reach out on a back channel asking whether the person had considered your company — DON’T try to leave an advertisement in the comments section.

However, do keep listening. The dialogue around the pros/cons of your competition should be at least somewhat enlightening.

*Note: The third party issue is an extremely yellow light – the only thing that keeps it from being red is the fact that sometimes email is okay.

No direct mention, only a general reference of industry or market segment: Red Light

If your industry or market segment is mentioned in broad terms, monitor, listen and feel free to weigh-in from your personal or professional experience, but take off your marketing hat.

Even if your marketing pitch seems relevant — try to put yourself in the shoes of those on the receiving end.

As a litmus test, maybe try a little visualization: Imagine you are shopping at the mall (not working or at a networking event). Then, picture a group of strangers standing around having a conversation that reads exactly like what’s on the blog post and ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable interrupting the people chatting away at the mall to deliver your marketing pitch. It not, don’t do it on the blog.

Reader asks about your company in the comments: Yellow Light or Green Light

If someone asks the blogger or other readers of the blog for feedback about your company, email is my first preference. Let the person know you saw his/her comment on XYZ blog, provide your contact information and make yourself available as a resource.

Usually, a commenter will have his/her URL embedded in their name above their comment. If you poke around on their blog/website, there is probably a means of contacting them directly. If not, then choose whether to leave a comment in response to theirs on the blog, but always be respectful of the blogger in this regard — it’s their house.

One size fits some

It’s never my intention to state that there is only one way to do things — I’m not trying to set the rules, I’m only trying to share what works for me and help others in my industry avoid some of the common pitfalls I see so many make.

Different companies, different brands, different industries will always require slightly different approaches, but know there are plenty of sure-fire ways to piss people off with bad comment marketing.

If you were looking for something a little different, Mack Collier has a post about how to write GREAT blog comments, and Sarah Lewis has some great advice about how leaving blog comments can boost your blog traffic.

I hope you find this as a useful starting point to developing your own comment marketing system. If I’m way off base, let me know in the comments.

This is by no means a complete guide, but a starting point… Will you help me finish by adding your voice to the comments?

Photo by your_wht_knight

Bookmark and Share

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 36 comments }

June 22, 2009 Brandon Chesnutt

Great breakdown, Shannon. Extremely helpful.

I would think that list posts fall into the same category as comparative posts. If a blogger provides a laundry list of links related to a certain topic or product, yet fails to mention your company’s doodad, reach out via email unless they specifically state they are looking for additional examples/links in the comments.

What do you think?

Brandon
@bchesnutt

June 23, 2009 Shannon Paul

I think it’s okay to reach out via email etiquette-wise, and to fulfill any due-diligence on your company’s behalf, but I would be surprised to hear anything back. Maybe I’m being cynical though. ;-)

June 22, 2009 tewonawonga

Good points. A rep from Helium.com (she’ll be here any minutes since I mentioned the company name) has taken the hard line on several posts in the blogosphere—she’s a force of nature. The sweatshop content model is off-putting enough on its own; her incessant attacks seal the deal.

Any opinions on companies commenting on seedy blogs? What if Company A gets slammed on a porn blog and isn’t involved in the industry? Do you think it’s worth the effort?

June 22, 2009 Scott Hutslar

Great article. Thank you for taking the time to post it. It will help many avoid the mistakes that others have already made and learned from.

@scotthutslar

May 20, 2010 lean six sigma

Really very very interesting Article.i will really appreciate you for continuing this in future.

June 22, 2009 Marina Martin

This post seems to assume that the only comments someone would make are hard sells about their company. There are plenty of opportunities to provide genuinely useful information without selling your company (but including your company URL).

Also, when a reader asks about your company and you only respond via the backchannel, it makes it look like you aren’t paying attention. Other readers may be interested in an answer, too; I’d post a quick “here’s my contact info, would love to help” comment and send an email, too.

(BTW, welcome to Seattle, Shannon!)

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

Marina,

Thanks for the welcome – although I believe I stipulated that this post wasn’t aimed at people who happen to be marketers commenting in a personal capacity, but rather those who were acting as official representatives for his/her company (I know the line can be very blurry at times).

Also, the kind of thinking that compels companies to post in an effort to “look” like they’re paying attention is the kind of thinking that forgets to respect the blog as a sort of gathering. Long story short – this isn’t your house, but rather, you’re a guest.

Also, the relationships with the individuals is more important than the opportunity to post something publicly. If attracting eyeballs is the motivation, why not simply put out a press release over the wire?

June 22, 2009 David Spinks

I agree on almost everything. The one thing I’d add is that you don’t necessarily have to take your marketing hat off to be human and insightful in a comment. This works best if the post is relevant to your company. I recently changed the site my name links to from my personal site to the site I represent. Therefore, if I comment on posts that are relevant to my company (which is pretty much any blog in my case) and I provide value, insight and speak like a human being, when people click on my name, they’ll go to your site and may find it valuable. This can be a strong marketing tool, increasingly so as the popularity of the blog post increases.

Dave

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

David,

Agreed – the line can be blurry, but I wasn’t addressing marketers who just to happen to be participating in a discussion on a blog, but the idea of “adding value” in a discussion is something I only ever hear marketers say… just saying.

June 22, 2009 Stuart Foster

I actually wrote a very similar article to this a week ago but took a different position (I like your argument better though).

It’s an interesting conundrum for sure. I definitely like the email option for the “Yellow Light” that really takes a lot of the guess work out of the equation. (This is always good considering that a large amount of junior people are directed into commenting in this way)

Thanks, Shannon. You’ve changed my mind.

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

Stuart,

Heh. That wasn’t my intention, but you’re welcome :)

June 22, 2009 David Spinks

Another thought…how do you feel about commenting with a really awesome, valuable comment and then signing it with your name and position/company?

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

David -

I think I would need a good definition of “awesome”. I think it’s a good idea to decide whether you’re leaving the comment as an official representative of your company or as yourself. Dropping a business card at the end can often seem, for lack of a better word, icky.

June 22, 2009 Chris Donaldson

Transparency is a key as well. Be clear who you work for and what your role is and keep the sales language to a minimum – and people shouldn’t take it the wrong way (most times anyway). Rock solid insight, Shannon – thanks.

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

Chris,

Great point! It’s one thing to state your name/title/contact info as a matter of disclosure in representation of your company and quite another as a means of drumming up business. Most bloggers and blog readers are smart enough to know the difference.

June 22, 2009 Andru Edwards

Great article Shannon – marketing peeps need to take heed. They don’t realize that they are some of *the* worst comment spammers out there. Also, Why haven’t we met?! ;)

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

Andru,

I’m not sure why we haven’t met. :-) I’m living in Seattle now, but I go to lots of events. Hopefully we’ll run into each other sooner instead of later. Thanks for reaching out!

September 7, 2011 Melly

Didn’t know the forum rules allowed such brilnlait posts.

June 22, 2009 jamiefavreau

Thanks for providing some insight on this. I am new to this and I always looking to learn new things.

June 23, 2009 Shannon Paul

I’m sorry I haven’t caught up to the rest of the discussion here — it’s on my agenda, but at the moment, I have a plane to catch. I’m really reading, listening and thinking on everything else added here. More to come…

June 24, 2009 Tim Lloyd

Great article.
I think a similar approach would benefit professional groups on LinkedIn, where there are frequent examples of users wading in with a hard sell. The general quality of content and usefulness of this resource is being rapidly undermined.

June 26, 2009 edwardboches

Interestingly, I think there are numerous brands, particularly larger more established, who don’t even use commenting as a marketing strategy. Seems to be more a blogger thing, as a means of reciprocity. However, it makes far more sense to comment and advance a dialog than send an email. Most people get 300 plus emails a day and don’t need anything they didn’t request. But if they already commented themselves, they have essentially opted into the conversation. A comment shouldn’t hard sell. It should continue the conversation. You’ll get credit for that.

June 30, 2009 lifecoachkansascity

Shannon,
I really enjoyed this post. I’m a fairly new blogger and finding new and relevant topics to help me improve my own skill sets is always helpful.
I also liked Marina Martin’s comment about not just using e-mail to respond. If it is something you think you should respond too as a third party I’d like to know the stakeholder/company in the conversation is listening. Even if it’s just a “this is a interesting post to me/us I think I’ll write you directly” response.
Thanks again for a great post that created interesting dialogue.
Chuck Franks

June 30, 2009 Shannon Paul

lifecoachkansascity,

As I noted above with Marina’s comment, please note that this sort of approach is exactly why I wrote this post to begin with. Someone else’s blog is not just a place to be seen as a means of proving that you’re paying attention. If you grow real relationships, those people will tell others you’re listening and that means a lot more.

July 6, 2009 The Sharper Image Review

it seems like all the red, yellow, and green lights eventually fade into a Grey when it comes to comment marketing. Doesn’t it get to a point where the post / comments are situational to the top / intention of the post?

November 16, 2009 Daniel

Ohhhh, first time I’ve read anything on comment marketing since hearing about it at podcampaz 2009 yesterday. I was a little off base, thanks for clarifying. Great explanatory post!

January 6, 2010 Michael

Comment Marketing really works. This is one of the biggest marketing tools out there.

February 15, 2010 Juan Jones

Very nice post. This has really gave me a shift in what I need to do.

October 3, 2010 Consulting Company

Indeed, this is getting easier… More and more simple to use systems are appearing. Some of them aggregate Twitter, Facebook and other SM sites.

May 10, 2011 Gaurav Koley

Loved the post. Helped me a lot! Thank You!!

August 25, 2011 tgcsbrcbw

I Must allow that you are one of the unsurpassable bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for notice this informative article.my websites:Beats By Dre

October 16, 2011 Nadine Stevens

Hi Shannon,

Loved the post and the clarity you have around that, thanks.

Have to agree with you, we will be able to build great relationships on behalf of our company if we do comment marketing the right way. Well, I am not SOMEONE with the best skill of commenting, but I knew a lot of people who do comment marketing without knowing too much advantages they can get if they do it the right way. The three approaches you mentioned are great. They reinforced the fact that we should take blog comments seriously. I believe those red, green and yellow approaches will help us make our blog comments more effective, social and interactive and ones that will make other people respect us. Awesome!

Best,
Nadine

January 17, 2012 LisaD

Check this site out and join me in a new internet phenomenon!
http://signup.wazzub.info/?lrRef=66e7a

January 28, 2012 Patrick Springer

Marketing Business plan-a tough process but with these internet secrets your business will succeed and earn money with ease. Are step by step process can be repeated over and over again to build you a marketing empire.

March 1, 2012 Gayle

Interesting post I’m going to do a bit of commenting myself! :-)

I think it’s fair in some cases that you do a little bit of self promotion so long as it is sincere and you have something constructive to add to the topic other than that it it’s just downright spamming and should be given the red light by the sites owner.

March 2, 2012 Rincon del Marketing

Muy interesante todo lo que mencionas, especialmente lo relacionado con la matriz de ansoff, me parece muy productiva esta herramienta.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: