For many people the meaning of the term “social media” is limited to the social networking and social bookmarking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Reddit, Delicious, Stumbleupon, etc.
In reality social media is any form of media that allows interactive two-way communication.
Forums are social media. Different community sites are social media. Even your favorite reality shows become social media when they provide hot lines for real-time voting. Voting mechanism is the way for fans to provide live feedback. Without it any show is a form of a one-way communication. However, when voting crosses the borders of the local auditory and is spread nation-wide, then a show all over sudden transforms from usual media event to a social media phenomenon.
Blogs also can be social media. Notice the “can”. Not all blogs can be considered social media. They have to provide the means for two-way communications to be included in the loop. Blog analog of the reality show voting mechanism is social sharing. It could (and should) be encouraged through a whole array of social sharing buttons.
Yet the main way to establish a two way communications with blog readers is blog comments. A few years ago they were mostly considered an after-thought of blog management. Now they are treated by search engines as strong social signals important for search rankings.
What’s more important, blog comments could increase your social reach. If you use one of the plugins that allows users to comment from their Facebook profile, Twitter account or other social networking site, you gain multiple benefits. First, you make it easy for people to comment – that means more comments, more content, and higher interactivity. Second, when people comment through social networks, other people see these comments and may want to share their opinions as well.
Good social comments plugins to consider are IntenseDebate Comments, Disqus Comment System, Livefyre Realtime Comments and Facebook Comments for WordPress. There are plenty of others, but that should be enough to get you started.
You also can receive more comments by featuring the most useful comments and sharing them with your audience. If blog comments are properly encouraged and cultivated they can help you to build a thriving blog community.
However, if you won’t make it easy for people to comment, you will only have a few comments. And all the blog commenting power will be wasted.
CAPTCHAS in Blog Comments
That’s why we decided to remove CAPTCHAs from the blog comments. There is a place and time for everything, and we think that CAPTCHAs time has passed.
Why do you need CAPTCHAs on your web sites and blogs? There are millions of spam submitters on the Net, provided both as software and web services. So you need to create a virtual wall that won’t prevent people from interacting with you yet would serve as a barrier against automatic blog comments and form submissions.
A few years ago even the utilization of blog comment filtering plugins such as Akismet didn’t guarantee that some automatic blog comments won’t fall through the crack, so to speak. So CAPTCHAs were a second line of anti-spam defense.
The comment filtering algorithms have seen significant improvements, so there is no need to worry too much that your blog will be flooded by automatic spam. You won’t see it anyway. Just set up your anti-spam plugin to automatically delete all the spam comments after certain period of time.
Plus, you can enforce the option to manually check all the blog comments before they are published. So if there is even remote possibility that useless spam comment somehow finds its way into the comments’ approval queue, it will be the end of the line. It’ll never see the light of day.
CAPTCHA is still useful for contact forms. Generally people who want to contact a person or organization are more persistent than those who just want to share their opinion on the article or particular topic of interest.
However, if used for blog commenting, it hinders the level of participation, prevents the building of a thriving blog community and significantly decreases the possibility of social sharing. In other words, it does more harm than good. So it’s time for CAPTCHAs to go.
We just installed IntenseDebate. When you install it, you have an option to use it on all posts including older ones or for new posts only. If you choose a second option, you will have to continue using the wordpress commenting system for old posts.
If you enable IntenseDebate system for all posts, the trade off is that previously made comments won’t be displayed any longer. Though this is not an ideal situation, it’s worth it in our case – we sacrificed old comments in order to fully utilize the social power of new database. So now our visitors are able to comment on all posts right from their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Please share your thoughts and ideas. Start commenting. Do you see the “Top 7 Commenters” on the side bar? There are no comments yet. Since old comments won’t be displayed, it’s your chance to get featured as a top commenter – just go through our blog posts, find the ones you like or want to add something to, and write a valuable comment.