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?