Friday, February 19, 2010

Do You Engage With Your Readers, Fans, and Followers Or Not?

Image via Linda Cronin
Over the past couple of days, I have begun to question the value of responding to comments made by readers, followers, and fans. In this article, I would like to share my observations of what I see others doing and explore the effectiveness of the common practice.

Google Buzz, like Friendfeed and Facebook, seem to promote active discussions between one another. The initial post can ask a question, share a link, or just offer a simple thought and the conversation takes off.

I have also noticed, and I may be way off base here, that many of the "popular" bloggers and online celebrities do not appear to engage that often.

Take Mashable for example, having looked at a number of his Buzz posts, there are tons of comments, but few, if any, replies. I understand that Pete Cashmore is extremely busy and cannot possibly respond to every post, comment, or question, but it doesn't look like he responds to much at all.

Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan, on the other hand, appear to do as much as they can with the time available. For that, I am thankful. However, I must ask the question, "What is the importance of directly responding to a single comment or question versus responding in mass?"

It has been some time now, but I recall one well-known blogger stating that he does not respond to comments made on his blog. His belief was that anything he wanted/needed to say was already in the article. Commenting in the discussion area after posting a blog was a waste of time for him. Instead, he believed any comment, question, or clarification was grounds for another post, not a comment.

As a relatively new blogger, I can see value in both active engagement and none at all.

Engagement Or No?
The case for active engagement is well documented in other blogs. Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agent, often speaks about ways to connect with customers. We learn that building relationships with people is the way to become an "Overnight Success." Therefore, as I understand it, this means responding to comments made on the blog, answering questions in Twitter, and talking with friends on Facebook.

Not to Engage
However, with so little time, energy, and a close eye on producing quality content, I can understand why some decide not to respond to comments or get lost in endless conversations. Just recently, an article revealed that users spend more time on Facebook than any other web site. In the same breath, some complain that social media is a time waster. Therefore, to some it is simply best to avoid activities that produce little return in exchange for something more productive.

Quick Story
In 2009, I was actively following a successful business man on Twitter. He appears on a network television show that I like, but wasn't aware of it at the time. Anyway, he wasn't following me back, but made an effort to respond when I spoke to him. For one reason or another, he had come into the Raleigh/Durham area. While hanging out in hotel room, he mentioned that he was taking it easy for a few days and would probably hang out in Raleigh.

Seeing this as an opportunity, I asked if he wouldn't mind grabbing a cup of coffee. He immediately asked, "For what reason?" I told him that I admired his success and wanted to talk with him in person. He then said something about time is money and he has to manage his time wisely. Maybe next time.

I get it. With finite amounts of time and energy, one has to guard against misappropriations. So, let me ask you the question. What are your thoughts on the topic? Which of the two practices do you subscribe too and why? I would love to learn from your experience. Let's talk about it in the comment section below.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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