Comment Tracking Smackdown! Disqus versus Backtype

by Kat French |


Kat French
Kat French

Over the last year, I’ve been pleased with how the social media diaspora has begun to return home to the humble blog.  As social media marketing has become more and more about “presence management” (hat tip to Chris Brogan), pulling all the divergent strands of discussion across the social internet into a coherent conversation stream has to be a priority for people who are serious about using the web as a communications channel.  


One element that has always been a giant pain in the tupkiss  for conversation marketers is keeping track of comments and conversations on a variety of blogs on a single topic.  Today I’m going to look at two different solutions that promise to make comment and conversation management a little easier.  



We use Disqus here on Social Media Explorer.  One of the early selling points of Disqus was the ability to do video comments.  While that seemed like an exciting prospect, we’ve only received a handful of video comments since installing the service.  

But video comments are hardly the only reason to use Disqus.  Disqus has a fairly simple user interface.  The home page will show you all the comments you’ve made through Disqus.  You can also “friend” other people using Disqus, and view their comments, although the process for getting to the friend search is probably a little longer than it could be, and you have to search by email address, rather than name.  

The Admin panel allows you to manage comments for the websites where you’ve installed the service, and control their appearance.  In addition to moderating comments, in the Settings subpanel, you can enable  “social media reactions” (which pulls linked references to a post from Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg and YouTube), trackbacks, Seesmic video comments, and Facebook Connect (which allows  people to respond from Facebook).  

The Tools subpanel allows you to create widgets that provide more information about what’s going on in your site’s community: who’s commenting most, what are the most popular threads, and the latest comments.  The Permissions subpanel allows you to do some “premoderating” of comments, but if you’re already using WordPress for your CMS, there’s not much here that isn’t native to the WordPress comment management utility.  


backtype-screenUnlike Disqus, Backtype appears to scan blogs that don’t have it’s service installed looking for your comments.  You can submit new blogs to include in its daily scan.  As with Disqus, you can follow and friend other commentors, and honestly, the People search feature is much faster and simpler.  

That said, after registering with Backtype and dutifully entering my user names for several services (including Disqus), it still couldn’t seem to find my comments.  Once I plugged in this site, my own blog, and one other site where I’ve commented, it inexplicably showed all of Jason’s comments on SME under the heading “Comments by Kat French” on my profile page.   Also, on my Dashboard page, it seems to be attributing Jason’s comments to me (it was very odd seeing my profile pic over his name).  

However, once I removed SME from “My Websites,” it started showing my comments and removed Jasons.  So it’s possible that my status as a moderator here through Disqus was scrambling Backtype’s brain a bit.  

You can set up alerts, which appear to be almost exactly like Google Alerts, for the blogs that Backtype scans.  

The Connect panel isn’t what I expected.  You enter the permalink for a particular post, and it shows you all the conversations going on that link or refer to that post among the blogs it scans.  This was actually pretty cool, as there was evidently a conversation going on about my “Ten Commandments of Content Marketing Post” that I wasn’t aware of till I plugged it in and searched.   There’s a bookmarklet for the Connect feature, which will allow you to look for those related discussions from any blog post.

The Subscriptions panel allows you to get either an RSS feed or email notifications whenever someone comments to any post you enter.

At first blush, it might seem like there is no install feature for Backtype, but after a little digging, I discovered that they’ve recently launched “Backtype for WordPress,”  which apparently offers the same “pull comments from other social media sources” functionality that Disqus offers (at least, if you’re on a WordPress blog.)  

The Verdict

Of the two, Disqus is the more mature product.  Disqus also offers an installable solution for Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr, Movable Type, and a generic code that could work on nearly any blog platform, whereas Backtype at present is only installable on WordPress.  Also, Backtype’s Connect doesn’t integrate Digg, Seesmic, YouTube, or more significantly, Facebook, in the way that Disqus does.  On the whole, I think Backtype’s user interface is a bit cleaner and more intuitive, but both are fairly solid.    

They seem to have taken two different routes to comment aggregation, with Disqus being more reliant on users logging into their system, and Backtype being more dependent on its database of scan-worthy blogs.  

My opinion at the moment is that Disqus is probably the better of the two for managing comments on your own site, but that Backtype may be the better solution for tracking your own comments off your own site.  Together, they make a powerful toolset for tracking your digital footprint and keeping all your online conversations straight.

About the Author

Kat French

Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.