Various Methods of
Extending Blog Engagement
To Build Relationships
Here’s a controversial topic for bloggers and marketer alike!
Straight up, I don’t expect you to agree with what I’ve been testing but knowing available methods and outcomes is important as is my ongoing transparency once I have enough data.
I mentioned a couple months ago that I was testing behind-the-scenes some very controversial tactics and I now feel enough time has lapsed to comment on the results.
The topic is that of ways in which the fact that a commenter leaves an email address can be used to further the relationship.
The concepts below are incredibly high-debate but while a lot of people scream about their lack of compliance with the CAN-SPAM measures I believe if you check this document by the federal government you will likely agree that that is not likely to be true. [I’m no lawyer, yada yada]
The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business (via the FTC)
However, since many of us work in “permission marketing” everyone’s view of the deviation from that approach and the resulting ethical issues is different.
I personally believe if you come to my house and talk to me, I reserve the right to talk to you via any information you leave, until you tell me to go away.
Recently this dialog was overheard:
[paraphrased]Can you tell me what plugin is being used to send a copy of author reply comments to the readers on some WordPress blogs?
…To which someone replied:
[paraphrased] We have to be careful with plugins like that because unethical business practices like those are contradictory to CAN-SPAM and not congruent with the permission based marketing model we are using. These emails are definitely spam as we didn’t opt in to receive them and certainly would not engage with marketers using these and other non-ethical practices.
I followed up with asking
“Prior to sitting down and reading all of the documentation on the governments site for the CAN-SPAM act, I agreed with that sentiment. Yet, there is a reason the act is now known to many as the “You Can Spam Act” (wikipedia).
As long as a removal URL, address, and disclosure is in emails – anyone may email you regardless of optin. Optin is not required by the law which really struck me in the gut when it first hit home.
This makes it unfair to judge the individual as unethical if they are complying with the law. You opened the engagement and discussion with a comment and they followed it up with an email, which while annoying at times does not necessarily result in unethical behavior in the eyes of the law. http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business
Not all of what is wrote on a lot of peoples blogs is congruent with what the government has to say on this issue.”
To which the following questions arose:
“What do you do when people leave comments on your blog?
Are you sending an uninvited emails to people?
What can you tell us about what you are doing and why?”
I’ve actually been avidly testing every stretch of the law and back to see what will work. Not everything produces great results.
Five Plugin Solution Categories For Comment Follow-Up By Email
1. Subscribe To Comments:
The visitor checks a box voluntarily to receive followups. The subscribe to comments plugin is considered “broken” by many visitors because on a busy post it can generate them hundreds of pieces of email when all they want to do is hear from the author. Many people will not use this feature on an active blog for this reason. (And many bloggers with active blogs are beginning to have thoughts of removing the plugin)
2. Thanks For Commenting Emailers:
A plugin like “Thank Me Later” sends a one-time-only thank you for commenting, I appreciate your comment, perhaps you’d like to click here to subscribe. Kinda deal.
I ended up not being fond of this plugin by itself because there’s a more interesting marketing alternative I’ll get to in a minute. I also do not like running this plugin at the same time I run a reply to comment plugin as it generates a double-email situation with with less facilitation of subscription than the upcoming option.
3. Blog Author/Admin Replied To Your Comment With This Comment Emailers:
A plugin like “Reply Me” or “Comment Reply Notification” can be set as optional (visitor selected) or forced (always goes) to send a follow up reply from the blog author to the blog commenter. (Can also be set to send ALL replies but I’m not fond of that.)
I have had GREAT results with this plugin type (and I have mine set to forced but for admin replies only). It extends the engagement, opens the dialog and brings people back to the blog that normally would have forgotten about me. Its really geared for organic, normal, “regular” visitors and not for those only syndicating for credit. If the topic does not interest you, and you comment, sure its likely you won’t appreciate getting an email reply. However if the topic does interest you and I open the dialog, I’m relationship building and likely answering your questions at the same time.
Its a little like Facebook pages – where 90 percent of all LIKERS never return to the page itself – it creates a bridge to maintain contact with them and a easy link for them back to the blog. It also helps me out on comments that I don’t reply to same-day (and someone is waiting on an answer to), routing the reply to their inbox rather than assuming they’re still falling over themselves cheking my blog daily.
4. Half-Subscribe & Stealth Subscribe Plugins. Usually this is the same plugin in two different operating modes.
(All of these, as well as Aweber’s plugin have a fully optional mode as well that enables a checkbox in the comment form.)
Now here’s where stuff gets messy. There is so much power here that there is a huge potential for a abuse and everyone will disagree with what abuse is. However, this is compliant with the law as far as I have been able to assess though I am no lawyer. Do your own legal due diligence. You can also find the CAN-SPAM compliance guide here.
What these plugins do is isolate a first-time-commenter and auto-submit their name/email to a mailing list. It will not re-send to any commenter that it identifies as having been in the comment section of the blog database before. (This keeps it spam compliant)
Now depending on the list, one of two things happen. Either the person is now fully subscribed and receives an email that looks like the FIRST plugin type above, but contains an unsubscription link, and continues to hear from the blog owner….. or the person is half-subscribed (first half of a double optin), receives an email like from the FIRST plugin type above, but contains a “click here to subscribe/access freebie” link, that is the registration confirmation link.
http://just-ask-kim.com/recommends/subscribermagnet (I’ve used this plugin extensively though I currently have a thesis related bug.)
http://just-ask-kim.com/recommends/actioncomments (I’ve not tested this)
http://cliftonhatfield.com/wordpress-store/ccr-plugin/ (I’ve not tested this)
Might be interesting to some to note that Clifton is active in the tribe syndication blogging world as the coder behind the empowered theme, blog theme.
Its worth noting that several autoresponder companies have very strict rules about requiring double optin if you use this type of plugin.)
I used these methods pretty extensively for a while. They are currently disabled as I continue to struggle with a bug between Thesis and Subscribers Magnet but will be re-enabled soon.
And of course you can go the old fashion way and export your commenter email/name record (via a plugin) and import it into some autoresponders and go about business that way too.
Been there, tried number 5 and the opens-and-stays-subscribed-for-more-than-two-weeks ratio sucks because most of them have already forgotten who the heck you are after a month of non-contact. Number 4 has SUBSTANTIAL better results than #5. Number 5’s response rates are maybe double that of a purchased list but not targeted in the least and makes for very poor results.
However, I do not regret importing my old commenter list because I reconnected with quite a few that remembered me but had not subscribed and had momentarily forgotten about me. The number was by no means high but it still helped.
Let me clarify, when I say not high, I mean that 1200+ comments yielded 900+ names, of which only about 600 were unique and of those only about 500 were valid, and that yielded about 50-100 opens-my-emails-regularly subscribers. (Disclaimer, results not typical, YMMV, may cause hair loss)
All of this is a take-it-or-leave-it, your-mileage-may-vary, situation but I have been testing pretty aggressively.
So What To Do If Your Allergic To Emails?
Its quite simple… and something that while going through my export list I noticed that a LOT of commenters are amazingly well aware of… creation a email address solely for leaving blog comments, link it to your gravatar account, and go about your merry way knowing that you will not end up will email you do not wish, of any type in your inbox.
I was actually quite surprised at how incredibly high the number of fully fraudulent email addresses was in my comments record. I probably should not have been, in hindsight, but I may have had a case of hopelessly oblivious LOL
An Honorable Mention
Because the first time a person comments on a blog, their comments usually go to moderation (which can be jarring)… and because a first time commentor rarely comments on a bunch of comments in the same thread… and because I like every single chance I can get to foster that relationship with the first time commentor…
I also depend on a plugin called “Comment Redirect” that as soon as they post their first comment, redirects them to a page I set up (and specify) on my blog where I can add a note/video, thanking them for commenting and suggesting they subscribe and check out some of my blogs best content.
I’m sure by this point you’ve got an opinion one way or the other but hopefully you now have a better idea of mine on the matter.
I’ve had interesting success with a number of these techniques and have learned a crazy amount.
When I re-enable comment stealth subscription, it will be being included in my blogs Comment Policy, which is the correct approach. Also, I will not re-enable it until my first follow up message is “right”. There’s a HUGE amount of variance in results depending on how good or poor that first email is and whether it conveys the right message as well as does some future pacing. The first follow up message can totally blow it for you so pay attention to it.
I’ve wrote about most of these plugins on my blog (and any free ones that I haven’t let me know and I’ll see what I can point you to).
Now here is something to be aware of… for those using the tribe syndication or blogging alliance models… these plugins stacked up can be incredibly rough on a syndicator that is doing a lot of blog comments purely for points. Of course, I have mixed sentiments on that scenario. I’d personally rather that anyone only comment on posts that strike them to do so rather than the robotic action of commenting just to get credit. The bright side though is that in the case of Thank Me Later and the Stealth Subscribe genre of plugins, they only ever receive these on their very first comment here.
Am I aware that some people will no longer comment here because I’ve admitted all of this – yup.
But this is the elephant in the room… he may not be pretty but he’s got some redeeming qualities. Lets admit he’s real and make people educated about their options.
One note… if your blog is very young, and you stack these plugins too deep, or use too many of them with popups etc… then you risk alienating your visitors from ever returning. Too much too soon can leave your blog hamstrung. Some of these tactics are powerful… don’t shoot yourself with them!
Use your head. Educate yourself. Make decisions that work best for your business at the place your business is at at the moment.
Feedback: I’d LOVE to hear YOUR feedback on emails you have received from me and/or unsubscribed from. I know that plenty of my regular commenters have unsubscribed from some of my individual lists. Don’t worry, I’m cool with it. In fact from time to time I’ve TOLD you to reduce whats coming into your inbox for better results. (Although I still sometimes get annoyed at seeing the names of people that unsubscribe from very personal emails but that’s a different topic altogether!) You don’t have to worry about hard feelings telling me .. yeah I wish you’d knock that off woman! LOL
What we need is an open and honest discussion about what I’ve been testing of which you have been the guinea pig!
Please share your thoughts!
Your Partner In Online Success
PS: And if you’re not already a subscriber or wish to re-join just drop your name and email in the box and I’ll see you inside!
PSS: I believe you will discover that not all of those who were imported into my list are as unhappy about that situation as you may fear. Some of my most loyal and amazing friends and fans actually came through that method. The comments in the next two weeks should be interesting! Be sure to check back!