Someone asked me a question about blog commenting recently that I thought peculiar. It’s a question that many brands, marketers and public relations folks have asked, for sure. But for whatever reason, the question just seemed odd to me. The person asked:

“What is the best way for a corporation to comment on a blog without seeming to promote their products?”

The root of the question is the company’s desire to not be spammy with their blog comment activities online. I’m thrilled marketers are asking that question. But it still seems peculiar to me. Maybe my perspective is a bit different, but here’s how I answered:

“The best way for a corporation to comment on blogs without seeming to promote their product is to comment without promoting their product. I know that sounds flippant, but take it literally. If the comment is to correct a misstatement about the price of a phone, for instance, you’d say:

‘Hey, It’s Jason from Verizon. Just wanted to clarify a mistaken number in the post. Our Droid X retails at $199.99 with a two-year contract if ordered online, not $249. If you saw it listed for that price, let us know so we can let the retailer know that’s not kosher. Thanks!’

You don’t say,

‘Hey, I work for Verizon, the greatest phone company on the planet, and our Droid X is now just $199.99 with a two-year contract and if you order online, but only until Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. So hurry down to your local Verizon store an save, save, save on the best smart phone known to man. This thing will mow your lawn. We’ve got apps! We’ve got savings! We’ve got the lowest prices in the tri-state area! Verizon rocks. Verizon rolls. Gotta love your Verizon Smart Phones! (Void where prohibited, fees do not include titles, tax, license or ferrets.)”

Is that so hard for people to understand? I don’t see why.”

So is it so hard to understand? Why?

NOTE: I used Verizon Wireless as an example for analogy only. They sponsor Social Media Club Louisville, of which I serve as president, but are not presently a client or sponsor of this blog.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://RobertBurnsII.com RobertBurnsII

    Beautifully written post. Short, to-the-point. Flippant. But so dead on.

    “Hey, It’s Jason from Verizon. Just wanted to clarify a mistaken number in the post. Our Droid X retails at $199.99 with a two-year contract if ordered online, not $249. If you saw it listed for that price, let us know so we can let the retailer know that’s not kosher. Thanks!”

    Companies: ^^^ Study this. Learn it. Commit it to memory.

    Then DO it.

  • http://twitter.com/ShanSteffen Shannon Steffen

    Awesome Jason!

    “The best way for a corporation to comment on blogs without seeming to promote their product is to comment without promoting their product.”

    This sums it up in a nutshell. You don't need to promote your business but rather your authority in the subject and ability to connect with the online community. There is nothing wrong with a little self-promotion here and there but there is really no place for it in someone else's blog comments. That, to me, is like have a cool banner someone asks you to sign your name to and you paint over the banner with irrelevant text that adds absolutely no value to the banner and defaces it at the same time.

    Respect, authority and value-added – that's what it comes down to!

  • Craig H Kessler

    If the boosting is relevant to the discussion and done in a manner that is appropriate I think it's fine. Also, if it is a commenter that has been established in the community and is known by the editor, I think it's fine. If the majority of comments are on topic and then one comment responds to the post and then brings in a side topic with the product it's fine.

  • Mack Collier

    All the company has to do is speak in the voice of the customer. Of course, most companies can't do this, because they have no idea what the customer's voice sounds like, because they never talk to or listen to them.

    Which is a far bigger problem, IMO.

  • http://lindsaybaish.com Lindsay Baish

    Yeah, this seems pretty common sense, but I also understand where the worry comes in. We have sort of entered an age where corporations almost feel admonished for selling at all, so businesses are trying to mind their Ps & Qs. They probably didn't even realize that in just acting human they were making a sale in and of itself.

  • http://lindsaybaish.com Lindsay Baish

    Yeah, this seems pretty common sense, but I also understand where the worry comes in. We have sort of entered an age where corporations almost feel admonished for selling at all, so businesses are trying to mind their Ps & Qs. They probably didn't even realize that in just acting human they were making a sale in and of itself.

  • http://twitter.com/laura_maly Laura Maly

    Love it! You had me laughing out loud. The problem is that “common sense” is often not “common.” Your analogy was right on, and companies would do well to remember simply to communicate as “people” not “communicators” or “marketers.” Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/laura_maly Laura Maly

    Love it! You had me laughing out loud. The problem is that “common sense” is often not “common.” Your analogy was right on, and companies would do well to remember simply to communicate as “people” not “communicators” or “marketers.” Thanks!

  • http://justdotdotdot.com/ Jordan Martindale

    Makes complete sense, but as many have already stated here – Common sense isn't too common. Communicating in a conversational, rather then “salesy” way is the way to go. Good post.

  • http://blogs.sas.com/sascom Alison

    Or in a case like this, I can tell you how awesome this post is without even mentioning my company, because it's irrelevant :). I've been coaching marketers how to blog and comment for a few years, and this is one of the hardest parts to really teach.

  • beley

    When they ask this question, they [usually] really mean “how can I SELL without sounding like I'm selling.” They don't want to comment on the post, they want to drop in a nugget about their business or product/service, which is the wrong mentality to begin with.

  • http://www.customerengagement.com CustEngagement

    The root cause is that so many companies and employees still don't really understand what being customer centric means. As a result everything they do is “difficult” even something as simple as correcting the price of a product or service. If you function in a truly customer centric environment there is an inherent humility and dedication to providing answers and solutions. It would just never cross someone's mind to “sell” until they'd earned the right to do so.

  • http://www.legalpracticepro.com Jay S. Fleischman

    Absolutely agree. But the root of the problem as I see it is that businesses (and small business owners) look at EVERYTHING in terms of, “how will this get me a new customer TODAY?” They don't understand that commenting is a critical way of participating in the online space.

    Such participation is important for a long-term strategy because it feeds into the same notion of “reach and frequency” that we used to pay attention to in the mass media advertising days (which still exist, of course). TV and radio advertising needed to have both reach and frequency in order to meet the potential customer where they were, and to begin to bring them to where the marketer wanted that potential customer to be. But with the growth of the online space, that R&F is more thinly distributed.

    I have a widget I need to sell, so I look for customers. I put up a blog and begin to create content, but nobody sees it because nobody knows I exist. I must, therefore, be in places where my prospective customers do exist. Places such as on other blogs and in the social media space. I need to walk into the middle of the crowd, not stand in the fringes.

    Commenting on popular blogs allows the business owner to be in the center of the action and contribute in a meaningful fashion. In doing so, the business owner raises the level of awareness of their product or service – in my case, widgets.

    It's a slow burn, to be sure. But we're trading money (ad dollars) for time. And with so many more channels (each blog is a channel, is it not?) those efforts must be more focused and more productive to be effective.

  • http://socialbutterflyguy.com/ DJ Waldow

    I think it's hard to understand for many companies because there is so much pressure to “sell more stuff” NOW. Not in a few weeks or months or years – NOW. Others have mentioned this in the comments below, but I think that's the crux of the issue. As you know, our CEO and VP of Strategy & Innovation both preach “being there before the sale.” That's the key.

    That being said, 9 times out of 10, I include my company name & Twitter handle in my comment signature (as I'm about to do now). Do you think that is “okay?”

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  • deelirium

    I think the example given is a little simplistic. If the topic is about Verizon phones, and you're representing Verizon, then it's obvious that you have a good reason to be commenting on that blog in order to provide information about the product.

    But what if the blog post/message board topic isn't about your specific product, but about the larger product category.

    For example, I represent a school district and my goal is to enroll kids in our schools. I have an account on a popular discussion website for moms. My question is: unless someone brings up one of our schools into the discussion, how am I supposed to be 'engaging' with them on this site? I am neither a mom nor a teacher, so my only relevant knowledge is with my specific schools – my 'products.'

    Just throwing it out there for discussion.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Can you not just talk about what they're talking about, contribute and
      engage with whatever they're talking about and become the person from the
      school who happens to be a really cool, engaging member of our online group?
      If you do that, who will they turn to when they want information about the
      school or are thinking of switching their kids? My guess is you. Just a
      thought.

  • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

    Every time I think of this topic, I always remember Star Wars. But instead of “stay on target, stay on target,” I think “stay on topic, stay on topic.” It's when people drift away from the topic that they start getting into trouble.

    Your answer is perfect. Not flip at all.

    Best,
    Rich

  • http://davidhorne.me david horne

    Jason, what makes it hard I think is the corporations still want to push instead of pull. The temptation to get the short-term win is heavy for employees. Old mindsets don't work in new media most of the time. Change the expectation to giving value instead of getting would be a good start.

  • http://twitter.com/pheffernanvt Pat Heffernan

    Jason, your message and the example are clear, simple, and to the point. Let's hope it helps more than one corporate communicator “get it.” Well done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RoxChiriac Roxana Chiriac

    …Or how to sell without selling :) or built now to sell later…or…Or…
    It is not hard to understand, but we hear what we want to hear. I don't have time and resources to involve now in thousands of online communities hoping I can sell them 'something' in years. No way.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well, I suggest you buy a lot of pay-per-click ads and hope. Your customers
      probably want relationships, not sales pitches. Good luck.

      • http://www.facebook.com/RoxChiriac Roxana Chiriac

        :) I want relationships, too. But if you work with sales people or you are one of them, you know what I meant.

  • Austin

    I think the real question was, “Can you use the opportunity to do a mild form of selling without being out of line”?
    I don't think it has to be either/or. There is nothing wrong in pointing out a sale price or when an offer that is good may expire. I would want to know about it even if it does look a tid bit like selling.
    Austin
    http://www.SmartWayMarketing.com

  • http://www.2seo.com/ Teena

    Great conversation you have here, I'm learning a lot as always reading your blog. This is a good approach, indirectly selling or promoting a certain product as long as its relevant.

  • http://www.dubai-mortgages.com/tamweel-swings-to-profit-amlak-reports-loss-in-dubai/ cathy @ Dubai Mortgage

    Hi Jason, it is not difficult to understand what you said but for many marketers it must seems quite difficult to implement. As it was an example of mild selling technique but everyone can't use the same technique of replying every time, it needs variation.

  • http://www.socialcubix.com/services/facebook-connect Facebook Connect Integration

    Hi Jason! Nice post! I completely agree with you on the post and on the answer you gave to the person who asked the question. One thing I'd like to add is, make sure you are also commenting in your niche! If you have a blog about SEO or Internet Marketing or you are an SEO company, then you must only comment on an SEO blog or to related stuff, don't comment on a football or a sports blog. You must stay in your circle! :-)

    Thanks!

  • iancleary

    If your intention is to add value to a post then it is unlikely you will just post to promote yourself. So if you make sure that your intention is correct then your actions will probably be correct.

    Also useful to add your personal opinion not what your company wants to say!

  • http://www.strictlysocial.co.uk/ Strictly Social

    This concept is not difficult to comprehend, but judging by the mass amount of spam and inappropriate comments left on blog posts, clearly many cannot find the delicate balance between commenting and selling, and I’m not talking about the bots!

    I completely agree that it is necessary to comment on a blog in which you actually have a genuine interest in, or some form of expertise. However, it does seem that some blogs or questions require different degrees of product placement, for example if someone has asked specifically about a product/service or the blog directly discusses/links to it – in this instance isn’t it ok to comment on it, whether it sounds like selling or not? I’d love it for people to tell me about new things they provide if it helps solve my problem or is an alternate service relevant to the topic.

    At the end of the day however, no one likes a straight sales pitch, so choose your words carefully.

  • http://www.exercisestoincreaseverticalleap.com vertical leap

    My question to you is can we comment justifiably on the article and still include our promotion link?? BTW your article was really helpful.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Unless the link is to some content or resource that is relevant to the discussion, I would consider that spam. You're having a conversation on the topic. Comments are not an appropriate venue for irrelevant marketing messages.

  • http://twitter.com/inspiredtrain Jerry Evans

    As usual Jason,
    A point eloquently made, precise and to the point. Perhaps what I find interesting is the comment stream, currently at 28, all, maybe bar one, is engaged, educated, passionate and commenting on a blog, WITHOUT attempting to SELL anything.
    Delightful! Just apply that to the 'company' online strategy. Be engaged, be educated, passionate, give praise where praise is due, your 'company' image and brand will rise, as your comments and contributions are read, appraised and graded, and then included in the general discussion, or even quoted.
    People read comments. They are like Overtime just because you didn't want the game to end. People are social. They connect with like minded people, they tribe. A business, a company, can be part of that tribe.
    I'm with Jason on the link, leave it out. Cynicism is the new Black. I know the Boss wants results now, but the Boss needs to be educated. Do you know how long it takes for a spider to spin it's web? And then they sit, amd wait. Hello?! It used to be called the web you know.
    And with that, you can make it 29 comments without selling. You teach us well Mr Falls.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Wow. Thanks, Jerry. Very nice and thoughtful of you to say.

  • MisterCritical

    Holy crap! The Droid X retails at $199.99 with a two-year contract if ordered online, not $249?
    I'm THERE!

  • http://www.slymarketing.com Jens P. Berget

    I agree that the question is odd, but I also understand why they're asking it. Most companies seems to be commenting (and are present on social media) in order to sell. So, that's what they're looking for, a new way to make more sales.

    To me, blog commenting is really just about two things. First, I'd like to give feedback when I read an interesting article (like this one, and sometimes I just give the feedback, although I try to add some value). Second, I try to help, add value, and give my opinion. I never ever try to promote my blog or what I do to earn a living.

  • http://www.webcarhire.com/ Car Hire

    I'm agree with Jerry Evans, now a days people are more sophisticated for comments.
    Generally people comment on blog where they find interesting and relevant. There are many other alternatives for marketing your products.

  • http://www.fastcarhire.co.uk/ Car Rentals

    Agree just state the facts and let the reader decide , that more likely to convert in my view,.

  • Brian

    It’s pretty easy really – come across as a thought leader and not just a self promoter. I used to write for a magazine where people would send in great opinion pieces and at the end declare their name and or company – it had integrity

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