Should You Allow People to Post Comments on Your Small Business Website?

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Whether you’re mapping out a redesign for your company’s website or building a mobile presence from scratch, you have a vague idea that you need to (or want to) “connect” with those who stumble upon your website or with prospects who find you through LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. But to what extent should you allow anonymous outreach?

Will you help your business (and SEO and social media profile) by allowing people to comment on your articles and blog post? Or will you hinder your business, because you’ll have to spend time deleting spam comments, fending off trolls, and answering lengthy questions from “lookie loos” – prospects who are attracted to the content but who won’t ever become paying clients?

This conundrum is not new; for years, businesses have struggled with how to deal with the double-edged sword of consumer feedback. Two competing schools of thought have emerged:

The first school suggests that “engagement at any price” is basically good. In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you get dozens of foolish/annoying comments, as long as those comments are balanced somewhat by positive feedback, which will boost your profile on social media and the search engines. Few exponents of this school of thought will say that “all publicity is good publicity.” But in general, these experts advocate a more laissez-faire approach.

On the other hand, others suggest that engagement can be more frustrating (and distracting) than it’s worth. Writing for the online publication, Slate.com, Anne Applebaum recently had this to say:

Once upon a time, it seemed as if the Internet would be a place of civilized and open debate; now, unedited forums often deteriorate into insult exchanges. Like it or not, this matters: Multiple experiments have shown that perceptions of an article, its writer, or its subject can be profoundly shaped by anonymous online commentary, especially if it is harsh. One group of researchers found that rude comments “not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.”

Direct comments from people who are interested in your content and your industry can inform your business model and spark productive relationships. But the costs of finding and engaging with these people may not be worth the investment. As with most things in life (and in online business), much depends on context. For instance:

  • Do you sell a consumer product (e.g. soap suds) that can and should be discussed broadly with diverse people online? Or are you selling a business-to-business service?
  • Are you engaged in creating controversial content or selling to a controversial market?
  • What’s the purpose of your website in the first place? What do you hope to achieve?
  • How do your content creation, web design and mobile strategies dovetail with the rest of your marketing?
  • Do you have associates (or outsourcers) who can monitor comments for you and keep things civil?
  • Are you actually interested in “starting a conversation” with prospects or fans? Or do you feel compelled to stir the pot just because you’ve read that it’s a smart way to get attention for your business?

At the end of the day, the answer to the “should I allow comments or disallow comments?” question must be found by looking closely at your business fundamentals. For assistance dealing with all aspects of web design and development, please contact the Social Media Marketing Los Angeles team at Connective Web Design today for a free consultation.