Despite the controversy surrounding comments, the feature is actually an essential part of your site’s success, especially as an online publisher. The potential that comments have as powerful part of user generated content (UGC) make it worth your while to stick with them as they give your audience the opportunity to engage in your content and feel connected to your brand.
Though pictures, Instagram campaigns, and videos are usually what we think of when we hear UGC, the term can actually be used to categorize any type content contributed by fans outside the company. This is not limited to pictures, videos, and designs but can also be applied to articles and even comments. That’s why, despite the recent backlash, your site’s comments section is profoundly important.
Since publishers thrive on storytelling, free-flow of information, and generating conversation, your site is missing something when you take comments out of the picture. In fact, if your readers are unable to contribute their thoughts and opinions on a piece, you are essentially shutting them down, saying that the author’s thoughts are the ultimate truth. In this day and age, that’s a serious no-no. After all, readers expect two-way conversations.
While there are definite problems plaguing comment systems such as trolling, spamming, and bullying, it does not mean that the conversations themselves are the problem. That’s why modernizing comments is essential for every blog and online publication. So read on for great ways to makeover your comments system in order to promote community, conversation, and the array of benefits that UGC offers, while reducing the downside.
Keep comments an option, while reducing their prominence
Old school comments, besides being a magnet for the worst personalities on the internet, are also kind of a snore. We all know where to find them, at the bottom of every article usually in almost exactly the same format, one comment stacked on top of the other.
If comments are inappropriate, it’s impossible for readers to sort out the good from the bad, since comments are typically listed chronologically in the order in which they were posted. That’s why more and more publishers are placing comments in hidden sidebars, as well as allowing users to comment on specific sections of text. With this tactic, sites such as EW and Quartz are able to ensure the relevance of comments. Since comments are more difficult to find, hopefully only serious contributors (those that have valuable, knowledge-based comments to add) will make the effort to write their opinion.
In addition to the practical benefits, putting comments on the side gives posts a more modern feel. Since most comments are somewhat reminiscent of 90s style messaging boards, giving them a new look, new location, and new structure is a great way to get users excited about commenting again.
Structure comments for natural, real time conversations
Typical comments tend to be rather slow and boring. Oftentimes, one reader may comment on a particular aspect of an article, causing a response by other readers. Unless the original commenter is stalking the blog comments, he or she may not know for days that someone else has responded to his or her comment. This, of course, is a missed opportunity for discussion, education, and the type of engagement that fosters community.
In contrast, when comments are designed to appear in real-time and use notifications as well as other modern social features, users are able to converse more naturally—making more genuine connections. Furthermore since such a layout is found all across social networks, structuring comments as such will be intuitive and engaging for the majority of users.
Filter out the bad, reward the good
Since we all know trolling is a major disadvantage of having a commenting system, online publishers need to find a way to prevent the so called “bad eggs” from ruining the authenticity and credibility of their sites.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to ensure that fewer provocative comments show up on your site—and these strategies go beyond moderation. After all, moderators are only human and can’t be on guard 24/7.
Some blogs have made their comments section filtered by “top comments,” which means that only comments with steady engagement such as shares, likes, and responses will be seen initially. If users want to see less popular comments, they will have to scroll through. Another alternative is putting comments through a moderation phase. This way, no comments will show up unless they are approved, unless of course the user chooses to view all comments. The benefits of employing such systems of course, is that your readers will only see comments that add to the conversation of the article at hand rather than detract from it.
Utilize the potential of the original UGC
Comments are the original user generated content. Long before there was Instagram and other social tools that powered major UGC campaigns, people could comment on the articles they read, the videos they saw, and more. Eliminating comments is not only sad, but also a loss of the great potential comments have always had and could continue to hold. It’s unfortunate that, generally speaking, comments have not changed much since the onset of the internet, but there’s no reason for it to stay that way. By modernizing your comments, not only can you ensure comments still play an active role in your brand’s UGC strategy, but you can also empower your community to become more active and involved in your company’s conversations.