PLEASE DON’T TAPE MY MOUTH SHUT

Nancy Myrland All Posts, Client Service and Retention, Social Media 34 Comments

Lately I’ve run into a few blogs and Facebook Pages that don’t allow visitors to comment.  This isn’t typically an accident as it can only be done by deliberately going into one’s settings and choosing this feature.

From a marketing, customer service, leadership, product and service development, and human perspective, I don’t think this is a wise business decision.

Why?  Let’s take a look.

To begin with, we’re talking about Social Media, with a heavy emphasis on Social, right?

Social Media, by its very nature, was developed, and continues, to help individuals and businesses of all types communicate and converse with their audiences.  At their very best, these tools help all of us develop relationships in a manner unprecedented in recent decades.

Posting messages without allowing input is defeating your use of these media. To not allow someone to comment, say hello, give an opinion or voice dissatisfaction is sending messages I’m not sure you mean to send.

I’ve heard a few of the reasons for doing this, ranging from the fear of people posting comments that are divisive or negative, to simply having the desire to use these media only to let everyone know what you’re doing, to not having enough time to respond to everyone.

Seth Godin, author of many worthy marketing and communication books, has made it very clear on his blog that he doesn’t allow comments because he would end up writing in anticipation of the comments vs. what he truly wanted to write in the first place. Interesting philosophy, yes?

I urge you to reconsider if you have disabled comments in any Social Media you use.  You aren’t making your visitors feel very good about you and, in many cases, are causing them to feel unwelcome and irritated.  I doubt those are goals in your marketing or business plans.

Using them in this one-way fashion is a close relative to broadcast media that only serve to communicate your message and not encourage conversation.  This is expected there, but it’s not expected, and typically not welcome, in Social Media.

Bottom Line:  If you don’t allow me to post comments about something you’ve written, then you are sending me a clear message that you don’t care what I have to say, and that you definitely think that what you have to say is much more important.  You’re not allowing me to talk to you about your product, service, employees, give suggestions, get to know, like and trust you, and all of those wonderful connections that help me want to do business with you.

In essence, you’re taping my mouth shut.

I asked my friends and followers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook how it made them feel when they discovered comments were disabled.  Please take time to read them as there is a great deal of wisdom to be found here.  It didn’t surprise me that those I heard from are those I typically see engaging their friends and followers in Social Media.  They take the time to develop relationships.

I thank all of you below for taking the time to comment when I asked these questions:

  • What do you think of companies or people that disable comments?
  • How does it make you feel when you discover comments have been disabled?

Chris Brogan: “I think there are limited times when this is a great strategy, for instance if you want more calls to action on the content. It’s certainly a negative signal to some, so make sure you have a post explaining why not. Seth Godin did.” Chris, thank you for reminding me about Seth’s position.

Zach Woodward: “We can compare this to YouTube comments being disabled. I think the same thought process is involved. The video/page is popular, but for the wrong reasons perhaps.”

Abbie Fink: “Why bother?  If you’re not using it to engage, what’s the point?”

Mary Biever: “If they don’t want to listen, then I don’t want to spend my $ there.”

Pamela Reilly:  “Eliminating the ‘social’ from media makes it obvious they are stuck in the past.”

Brian Shelton: “I think it just reinforces their desire to control communication. One-way communication is over… for the winners.”

TKO Graphix: “I think a no-comments page lacks consideration for the reader.”

Renee Barrett: “You mean glorified digital press releases?”

Beatriz Alemar: “It defeats the purpose of being on FB. You’re on FB for engagement and communication – otherwise you use your website.”

Gwynne Monahan: “Annoying when blog post [is] shared on FB but have to click a few links to get to blog & comment.”

Kevin Chern: “If you post a blog to inspire opinions, might as well give people a forum to discuss them in your comments section.”

…and one final comment to bring a bit of levity to this rather serious discussion from my friend Gini Dietrich:

“You should have blocked comments on this post. That would have been pee in your pants funny.”

Again, thank you all for taking the time to leave such valuable comments, including you, Gini, when I posted my questions.

Those of you who don’t allow comments, are you getting a feel for what you are missing when you see the input above?  The Social Media experience is much richer and more valuable because of the interaction and conversation you will discover.

I encourage all my visitors to please join in the discussion we’ve started by adding your own comment below.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

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30 comments
Shel Horowitz - Green And Profitable
Shel Horowitz - Green And Profitable

I think the reason a lot of people block comments is that open comments get clobbered with spam. I'm not talking about anything other than trash posts about various pharmaceuticals or kinky practices. Leaving those open creates a very bad vibe, and manually moderating can take enormous time.

On my own blog, I've switched the comments platform from WordPress to Disqus, and I'm thrilled. So far, in about a month, I've only had to unapprove one post. Disqus takes care of the rest, and it's a big relief. You can see for yourself at http://principledprofit.com/good-business-blog/ (note that this blog is in the process of moving to http://greenandprofitable.com, so it may be a bit bumpy at the moment).

Dave Glynn
Dave Glynn

Personally, sometimes I think some kind of - wait 60 seconds before you comment - might be a good tool. My gut reaction can be a bit critical or flippant - if I have to think about it for a minutes or so, it might save me some embarrassment or save the writer from my wicked pen. Professionally, we like to encourage comments on our sites - where its technically possible to offer them. We like feedback, even though more controlling types would prefer not to have comments. However, we will name no names. No comment!

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

Nancy, Getting that post out of draft mode .. just have others to publish first, like today's. Agree about Seth, but I just think it shouldn't be called a "blog." It's not just semantics, it's about the attitude of valuing and expecting input. I will say this about Seth's posts not being open to other comments: it sure leads to a lot of "rebuttal" posts. ;-)

Deanna McNeil
Deanna McNeil

I enjoyed this post and really have a comment mostly about a comment you, the author made here. We can never forget that this is ALL about the conversation that is definitely happening and has been happening for a long time. It's funny, even Seth Godin is very responsive to inquiries and has answered every single email I have ever sent him in a very short period of time. I've learned we each simply have different conversation styles :)

Carla Young
Carla Young

Disabling comments means you miss out on the opportunity to extend the conversation.

Bloggers and brands who disable them out of fear of negative feedback are turning a deaf ear on valuable insights from their audience. Social media and blogging give us an opportunity not only to tune into our audience, but to engagement them in a more meaningful way - and that includes negative comments.

Plus the negative comments still exist whether or not you allow them on your blog where you can respond to them and turn a negative into a positive brand experience.

Adrian Dayton
Adrian Dayton

Everybody always talks about how "unmeasurable" social media it. They are completely wrong. I believe that comments provide some of the best measures of the impact of our blog posts.

It is a great feeling to see a flood of comments on a post, because you know that you have struck a chord.

I disagree with Niki about moderation, WP filters out the egregious spam and I'm sincerely interested in everything else. It gives you a great chance to listen. Sometimes the best ideas for blog posts come from the comments.

Great post Nancy.

Tim Baran
Tim Baran

Great post and conversation, Nancy. And that's the point. Conversation!

I feel strongly about committing to the mediums where we choose to engage - Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms. Spot on point by Niki that the nature of blogs is changing and largely becoming less "social" - I get more post "comments" on Twitter and Facebook than on my blog. So sure, blog are changing (though we spend so much time on 'em), but not enough yet to warrant me shutting down the opportunity to engage and build community.

I'm a fan of Godin, but have been disagreeing with more of his positions recently. And, although he's perfectly allowed to restrict comments on his blog, I voice my disapproval by not subscribing and reading his posts only if it resonates enough to appear on other platforms. The idea that there is a separate set of rules for the commercially successful doesn't ring true for me.

That said, I like Mimi and Gini's reminder to take ourselves lightly and our work seriously. Heeding. heeding... :-)

Mimi Meredith
Mimi Meredith

I LOVE the answers you shared int this post--and thanks to Gini Dietrich for helping remind us to take ourselves lightly and our work seriously!

When you make the decision to host a blog, it's the same as hosting an event. The idea is to expose yourself (at least to some degree) to others in order to be known. But, just like a great event, you don't want the experience to be one sided. You want people to come away with a sense of connection to you and to each other. If you didn't, you wouldn't call your communication a blog, you'd call it white papers or articles of interest--all written with the intent of showing what you know--not to learn, not to engage, not to build community. I think not allowing people to comment in any situation--even after a speech, I hope you seek input through audience surveys--is an indication that you've learned all you need to know and have no room for improvement in your thought process or delivery. Oh...and I think it's egocentric and rude. And I love Seth Godin's blog...read it every day...but that's still what I think and I'm pretty sure you were just dying to know because you left me this lovely big comment box in which to share my perspective. Thank you for inviting me to your discussion, Nancy! Of all the personalities I've met via social media, you are the most gracious and authentic community builder and it is just what our world needs!

Abbie S. Fink
Abbie S. Fink

Nancy - thanks for sharing the different viewpoints. And by accepting all these comments, you have made the point. The interaction with your customer, client, buyer, etc. is an important part of the digital communication process.

Nicole -- I can't argue with the time element and needing to screen for spam comments, but I think that is part of the process of being a participant in the digital space.

And, Gini....pish posh!

nicole black
nicole black

I'm going to respectfully disagree with you Nancy. I block comments or screen/moderate them on all of my blogs in large part because I don't have the time to sort through and delete all of the spam comments that I receive.

Additionally, I rarely have the time to respond to legitimate comments and feel as if my readers think that I'm ignoring them if I don't do so. So, I'd rather limit comments than risk looking as if I'm not engaging with my readers. I prefer to engage with my readers and followers on other social media sites, rather than on my blog.

Finally, in my humble opinion, the nature of blogs is changing very quickly. The comments section on most blogs is becoming irrelevant, and only the most highly-trafficked blogs have active comment sections. This is occurring in part due to the increasing use of RSS feed readers which allow readers to view content from a platform that doesn't permit the display of comments.

These days, the important conversations are occurring elsewhere in social media, rather than on the blogs themselves. Blogs are for content creation. The content is then disseminated, shared and discussed on other social networks. As I see it, blogs, while an important part of an online presence, are more of a "media" than a "social media". They fall within the definition of social media, but are less social than they used to be.

So, while I think you raise some good points, I disagree with the premise that most blogs should allow comments. But then again, here I am, commenting on your blog;)

Rebecca Wissler
Rebecca Wissler

Very relevant topic, Nancy. My favorite response is Renee Barrett's. Without enabled comments, this really would still be traditional PR. I run into this issue weekly as I promote an increase in social media use, so it's helpful to see how everyone else tackles the issue. Personally, I think we can't call it "social media" if there's no interaction with our audience. Unless I'm misinformed, none of us (and very few of our clients) have reached Seth Godin status. Nice post!

Justin Brackett
Justin Brackett

Nancy,

Great Post!

A few weeks ago I tweeted something about how frustrated I was with my internet provider. My tweet was very pointed from my frustration. Within a few minutes I received a reply tweet saying how sorry they were that I was dealing with issues. Though the issues have not been resolved, my provider has been in constant contact with me while we are finding a solution to the problem. All that said, my provider in no way tried to regulate or block my comments about them. They simply placed themselves so that they could see my comments and respond correctly. I have been supper impressed with how they have responded.

People and companies need to get past their fear of what people could say about them on their blog or sites. It is going to happen. So engage them, remain relational, and be open and honest about your view point as well as how they view your post, product or company.

I love that you asked for comments on this Nancy! Way to practice what you preach.

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

Nancy, Great stuff and perfect for a post I've been meaning to take out of draft mode. (Look for pingback soon.) Wonderful input, with bonus hilarity from Gini. Totally agree with Gwynne's comment; I hate being drive to Facebook, to then have to get to the blog link. I keep FB personal, don't use it a lot for business and know I'm not alone in that.

I think the Seth Godins of the world are the obvious exceptions to the rule. If it's not open to comments, IMO it's not a "blog." It's a newsletter, a column, a release and there is nothing wrong with that, particularly if you are a Godin or share a great YouTube videos. Your smart post IS your social contribution. I agree with Chris Brogan that there are times this is smart strategy, and you need to explain why you've closed comments.

Kevin's point about inspiring opinions. IIRC Mitch Joel didn't always respond to comments on his excellent blog, letting readers do so in the comments but he's become more active reading and responding to comments, rethinking that strategy and seeing the value. I've read some great discussions there as a result.

Many other responses were all about not wanting to engage, to listen and just broadcast one-way messages. That all speaks to me of not having a strategy, commitment to SM, the work involved in moderating and responding, and really not having a plan for using the blog and the engagment for business development. FWIW.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

HAHAHA! You did it! LOL! It is what I said...and it would have been funny! Thank you, Randy, for agreeing!

When I speak, I ALWAYS get, "But what if people say negative things about us on our own blog?" Guess what? They will! But wouldn't you rather they said those things to your face than behind your back so, if they're serious issues, you can take care of them? I agree with what everyone else has said. Unless you have 12 best sellers under your belt, you can't get away with it.

John Antonios
John Antonios

Great post Nancy, and a great reminder.
As you said, people seem to forget the "social" part in social media - if you're blocking commentary, you might as well have a corporate website, where you end up simply raving like a lunatic with no audience.
I would even push the envelop further, not only should comments be allowed, i think they should not need to be moderated. I understand the fear factor involved, but it goes back to the whole issue of transparency ... if all that is being said on my blog is flattery and i left no room for negative criticism, then how is that any better than blocking commentary.
In a previous post i wrote entitled Personal Branding - the 10 Commandments - one of the commandments said "Thou Shalt Stand Bare" - i think this applies to taking in the good, the bad, and the ugly :)
PS. Thanks for clearing up why Seth Godin has the commentary blocked - I always wondered about that!

Randy Clark
Randy Clark

Wikipedia explains "Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites." When comments are blocked, does the blog becomes indistinguishable from other static media? I personally find it quite irritating. And, yes it would have been hilarious to block comments here!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Dave, ahhh, yes, waiting before commenting might often be advisable. The keyboard and monitor within the confines of our offices is often an enabler of opinions that can be surprisingly rude. Thanks so much for stopping by, and for sharing your perspective. How is everything at Lextekreport.com? @NancyMyrland

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Hello, and thanks Deanna. I'm glad to hear you say that about Seth responding to your emails. Regular engagement and conversation in other social media contribute to the perception that the writer does so in every medium. I find it interesting that I never knew Niki didn't allow comments on her blog for that reason. She is engaging and conversational in other media, just as she shared with us above, so there's a bit of a halo effect because I felt as if she did that everywhere. I think there's a lesson to be learned there for those who choose to not engage in a particular area. I still wish they would, but if not, then make sure the engagement is at a high level everywhere else to alter the perception some might have. Again, I would still attempt to allow and answer comments everywhere, but that would be my advice if that's not happening. Thanks for sharing Deanna.

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Hi Carla...you are so right! I have experienced readers who choose to school me, and even slap my wrist ever so slightly, when making a comment, and that's okay. Even though I don't always agree, it gives me a chance to learn from them, and to continue to help clarify the position I was discussing in the first place. I'll be the first to admit that writing a blog post isn't always perfect. My mind can be 10 steps ahead, causing me to skip some basic definition and definition of concepts. Dissenting comments help steer those discussions, as well as my learning experience. Thanks for taking part in this Carla! You've always been great at engaging people in conversation!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Hi Adrian! Thank you for taking the time to comment. You are right about social media being measurable in many ways, not the least of which is blog comments, as well as comments on other Social Media. I don't expect blog comments because I know how busy people are, but I sure am pleased when I see conversation happening in a space I provided. Gini and I discussed and individually wrote about this a while back on her blog...that being that blogs are similar to having people over to your house in that helping them feel warm, welcome and safe is a goal and our responsibility. Thanks for being here!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Thanks Tim...I agree about there not being a separate set of rules for the commercially successful. I do acknowledge there are many that have 10s of thousands of followers, and would be moderating and answering all day long if they chose to. I have seen it done successful, however, by Mari Smith. She often answers most people, either individually or collectively on Facebook, and often on Twitter. She has a huge following, but is also someone who believes in engagement and conversation. Thanks for your comment, Tim, and for stopping by!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Wow....Mimi, how absolutely kind of you to say such a nice thing. You are a dear to say what you did. I also love that you took the time to comment, and share your thoughts regarding the desire to have people come away from their interaction to us with a sense of connection. Thank you for all of your comments. You are appreciated!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Thanks Abbie. You and Niki are right, time is a constant challenge, particularly when limited resources are available. Thanks for contributing to the post!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Niki, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. What I like about this is that you were able to leave them here, immediately upon reading the post, rather than having to go to another site to remember to comment in the middle of everything else you have to worry about in a day's time. I understand what you are saying, and respect your reasons because I think highly of you. I tend to lean on the side of meeting my friends, followers and clients where they are, vs. hoping they will go to another site to engage in the conversation I have attempted to begin with them.

You are right about the general nature of blogs changing. The comments section isn't always robust, and comments are being spread across the Social Web. I still have to lean on the side of letting my visitors decide where they want to talk to me though. They aren't necessarily going to comment where I'd like them to, so I try to do my best to follow the conversation where it resides.

I also love that I am able to read your comments at length because of the format we are allowed on blogs, Facebook Pages and other longer-format social mediums. Your thoughts contribute to this great discussion everyone is taking part in here today. Thanks for stopping by!

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Thanks Rebecca. Well, maybe Chris Brogan, who was kind enough to comment when asked, but he converses on the Social Web. I'm sure he doesn't have time to talk to everyone who approaches him, but he sure makes a great effort. These tools are evolving, and we will see their use evolve. What's incredible is that we are the ones who get to decide how we want to use them. It's incredible to be a part of something that important to communication.

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Thanks Justin! I love the conversation that comes with Social Media, so it came naturally with this one in particular. Your case is a great study in how a company or individual can end up being a hero because of a mistake, or a flaw in this case. To turn people around when they are upset often results in a customer or client for life.

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Thanks Davina! Get that post out of draft mode! :-) Yes, Seth Godin is an exception, kind of. Many don't think favorably of his lack of conversation.

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Gini, thanks for your contribution to this post, and to the discussion! You're right...in this world of interactivity and sharing, these discussions are taking place with or without us. We might as well be a part of them on our readers' terms, right?

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Thanks John! John, the reason I moderate is that I receive an enormous amount of drug- and pill-pushing spammy comments every day. If I allow all of them to post every day, my blog will soon loose it's appeal to readers as it will appear as all junk.

Nancy Myrland
Nancy Myrland

Randy, as always, thank you so much for stopping to comment. Wikipedia's definition of the interactivity being what distinguishes blogs from other static media is interesting.

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