How blogversation makes comments portable

Last week I was extremely pleased to be able to interview Suzan St Maur, a proficient and celebrated blogger who is also following the subject of blog comments with me on the net, and who first introduced the concept of blogversation. Obviously this needed to be properly explained, so we got together on Skype and had this discussion. I start everything off:

Tell me all about blogversation.

“A colleague of mine, a good friend locally, always said: ‘Don’t just post on Facebook or LinkedIn ‘Here’s my new blog, read it’, because that doesn’t give people any idea what’s in it for them if they do read it.‘ So I began to write a lead about my blogs in social media to basically say what the blog was about and what was in it for the reader. But the danger of doing this was that people would start discussing the issue right there and then, without going to your blog to read the full story.”

Do you mean discussing on social media where they saw it?

“Yes, that’s right. Well, I thought that’s interesting, because it’s not necessarily a bad thing, particularly with Google Plus, you have this plugin where you get all the comments about a topic that you promoted on Google Plus can be transferred automatically onto your own blog.”

Which you’ve already got installed, haven’t you?

“Yes, and it’s brilliant, because it really gets the conversation going, and I don’t know if you have been on my site today, but I’ve used this as a follow up to an article that I had recently published, which was actually a guest post, it was a conversation I had with somebody on LinkedIn about that article. I asked the guy’s permission, obviously, and he said yes, sure, go ahead, so that’s another example of blogversation, if you like, the way the conversation started on my site and moved over to LinkedIn, and onto Google Plus, and has come back to my site again.”

So you took the conversation from LinkedIn and Google Plus, and you wrote a follow up post using that information?

“The discussion I had with this chap was on LinkedIn was pretty much self explanatory, so I wrote an introductory paragraph and cut and paste the discussion I’d had with this chap, after I asked his permission to do it first. I linked to his site and his business, so any appropriate extra publicity goes his way.”

So was this a separate post or a continuation of the original post?

“Well, it was kind of an offshoot from the original post, which was about how to write business proposals, and we started talking about the inappropriateness of some companies who submit business proposals or repitch for stuff without having been asked to do it yet. That’s quite a good example, as there was a lot of discussion on LinkedIn, and then the author who wrote the original post joined in on Google Plus to discuss the same issues. So that’s why I thought ‘it’s not just blogging, it’s not just social media, it’s blogversation’ – conversation that moves around, from blog to social media and back again, because at the end of the day you want to get people back onto your blog, particularly if you’ve got a commercial site – it’s quite important to keep them there so they know about your business as well as the blog. But there are ways of doing this, and you find that this cut and pasting idea is one of them, and I’ve done it two or three times now. Most people, when you ask their permission, are quite happy for it to be shared, particularly if the original discussion has been on a public platform and it’s in the public domain anyway.”

So you’re recycling comments from elsewhere, which otherwise would be a wasted opportunity on content that’s generated purely by interaction, and lost if it’s not brought back to the original source which it actually refers to.

“Yes, that’s right, and obviously some of the comments you get on Facebook or Google Plus are not really worth bringing back, but if you get a really good discussion going, as happens quite often, then it seems a shame that it has to stay on LinkedIn or Google Plus without the benefit of sharing it on the blog for new readers, who don’t necessarily visit on the same groups in LinkedIn.”

So why do you think it’s easier for people to comment on social media than on the blog?

“It’s because people’s fingers are very lazy. They see something and rather than click through to your site and read it all, very often they will start thinking and talking about it there and then. You don’t want to stop them commenting, wherever they comment, it doesn’t really matter, as long as they engage with you and on what you’re saying, but the problem was in the past that people would do that, which effectively would be lost because you couldn’t share it with people going back to read your blog. But now there’s this tool on Google Plus and I’ll be interested to see if the others will follow suit.”

Facebook has already done one.

“Has it? Well you can imbed posts from Facebook onto your site, but you can also do it from Google Plus and Twitter, apparently.”

There’s actually a plugin I saw on another blog that gives the option of either commenting in the comment box, or you can also do it on Google Plus or Facebook, and wherever you do it, it shows up underneath the post. It’s called the Comments Evolved plugin. So blogversation, what are you doing with it right now?

“I’m taking the concept about how to write blogversational comments on other people’s blogs, so they work across social media as well as in an individual blog, so there is that portability – it’s introducing portabilty into blog commenting really.”

I like that, portability! So because there is this trend to comment elsewhere, it doesn’t matter, you can still take it and put it back with the original.

“With the commenter’s permission, obviously. You can’t just lift it – well, I don’t suppose many people would object if the original comment they make is in the public domain, they can’t really object, but it’s kind of nice to say ‘Look, do you mind?’.”

It’s all part of relationship building anyway, isn’t it?

“Yes, exactly. But as long as it’s given in a business context, you give people a link to their website when you use their comment; it’s all grist to the mill.”

We then changed the subject to the big blogs like Copyblogger that had announced they were closing the comment facilities and moving to social media. 

What do you think about the big blogs closing their comments?

“It was that that made me think about blogversation, as it was them who were encouraging their readers to go and talk about their stuff somewhere else, weren’t they?”

The reason why they said this is because they had a huge amount of spam.

“Yes, but there are very sophisticated spam filters available, so I don’t quite buy that. They may have had other reasons as well, I think one or two other people felt the same way, that they won’t being totally honest about their real reasons.”

Another reason they were saying is that they were having better discussions on social media than they had in their blog comments.

“I think that’s true – if you look on my site today, that discussion I had with that guy on LinkedIn, would I have had a discussion like that on the blog? – I don’t know. Whether I like it or not, people are going to spend more time looking around on LinkedIn than on my blog.”

Do you think it’s much easier to have a quick fire conversation on social media than it would be on a blog? Is the response quicker?

“Yes, it’s quicker from that point of view, because if people are given a choice of spending half an hour on my blog, or half an hour on LinkedIn, you can guess what they’re going to do. It’s about creating social media discussions that are portable, preferably back to your own blog. But I wonder why Copyblogger don’t bring their comments back, but perhaps they don’t need to with their traffic.”

No, they’ve already got masses of traffic anyway.

“So maybe they are more interested in encouraging people to talk more about their posts elsewhere than on their site. Perhaps they thought they were getting more readers overall by gaining discussions out in cyberspace rather than on their blog.”

So to recap, blogversation is a discussion about a specific blog post on social media rather than on the blog, and these comments are then republished with the original post, to continue the conversation in situ and connect it with its source. There are various blog plugins available to automatically syndicate this practice, but if the conversation happens in a platform that has yet to be connected to blogs, the content has to be physically transported.

As Suzan pointed out earlier, blogversation is not just blogging or social networking commenting, it’s a conversation happening in a different environment, and requires connecting back to its source for future reference and the enjoyment of other readers who many not frequent those particular social media outlets. With the problems of content duplication aggravating the search engines, syndicating this procedure is the most appropriate procedure, but clever editing could overcome this if necessary. 

Let me know what you think of blogversation in relation to blog comments, both Suzan and I would be most interested.

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