Comment-plugging: what’s the etiquette

Blogging is great. You get to meet all sorts of wonderful people, such as my chief-commenters (DeShipley, atothewr, Samir, submeg and Billie Jo Woods) and of course, everyone who has taken the time to share their opinion on one of my pieces or the issue it relates to. There is something wonderful about being able to look at your stats page and see that people all around the world have looked at, and read, some of your work. True, they might have hated it, but as a believer that the more connected we are the better, I find it nice to see countries across the globe lit up in red because someone there has read my latest post.

On top of being connected, there is also an element of self-promotion. Pretty much all the writers blogging want to raise their image and gain followers, and there is nothing wrong with that. Something that, as a person who is polite to the point of painfulness (after all, I am British, what what) I find hard to decide upon is comment-plugging.

Nice post about socks. I write a blog about women’s rights, btw…

As I just said, a huge part of blogging is about engagement, so commenting on people’s posts is only natural. Being able to add your opinion to a discussion is great, and as a blogger, having people support or counter your arguments is very rewarding. Just being able to talk to people who have the same interests as you is great. And, of course, a comment is also a little advert, a tiny ‘Hello, I’m here, btw’, which could lead to more views and engagement for you.

There are people who go further than this, and actively promote themselves in the comments section of other people’s blogs. I’m not sure where I fall on this practice, as it falls into two categories. The first being the related plug.

The related plug

This one is, arguably, not even a plug, simply a tit-for-tat exchange of information. For example, I found a blog post the other day on the times in which you should ‘tell don’t show’. I could have commented saying I liked their advice, and that I had some extra reasons in my post 5 Reasons Why Show Don’t Tell Is Bad Advice. I didn’t, because I don’t like plugging myself, but it isn’t exactly plugging, is it?

What you are doing is trying to add to, and expand, upon an idea someone else has brought up. If you comment on a blog post, then you are giving someone your opinion. If you would give them your opinion anyway, it’s not really unfair if, instead of giving your opinion, you link them to a post you have written on the same issue. That’s essentially the same thing.

Half-assed comment, full-assed plug

When the related plug slipa into what I would consider devious territory is when the comment has very little substance. A related plug is basically a conversation. It should be ‘I like what you have said about this, and agree on these points, etc etc. I have written an entire post on this very matter, actually. Here’s the link, if you are interested’. Where I think it starts to get annoying is when people just put ‘Nice post. I wrote about this too, you can find it here.’

That’s clearly just advertising. It makes you look as if you have no interest in what the other person has said. You might have even skipped straight to the comment section in order to post your link, then leave the page, ‘job done’. I don’t think this is fair, and also probably isn’t going to do much for your image. I’ve never plugged in a comment (that I can remember) so I can’t vouch for how effective it is, but I imagine that a related plug would have a much better click through rate than a half-assed comment, full-assed plug.

So what should the rules be?

I think it should be like cooking; if it doesn’t add anything, don’t add it. Sure, you can put caviar on a burger, but is that really want the burger-eater wants? Either way, they definitely don’t want half a brick under the BBQ sauce. If your comment, and your link, adds depth to the discussion, then go for it. But if your plug will have no relevance, or doesn’t bring anything, don’t bother.

This benefits both the other blogger and yourself. The other blogger doesn’t feel that their comments section has become an advert for other bloggers, and that their posts are being overlooked by selfish people more desperate to get traffic to their own blogs than to contribute on others. If your link contributes to what they have said, they may find inspiration for a new post, want to talk to you more, or just have an interesting read.

As for you, responsible and thoughtful plugging means people won’t lose respect for you. People who comment in a half-assed manner aren’t going to win any friends in the blogging world, and it may even turn people off clicking through onto your blog. Think about how you would feel if you were the blogger you were trying to plug to. If it would annoy you, then perhaps you should find other ways of promoting yourself.

So, what kind of plugger are you? What don’t you mind on your blog posts, and what you do you find irritating?

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16 thoughts on “Comment-plugging: what’s the etiquette

  1. I’m the annoying purist. I have to admit that I don’t ever like seeing people plug their own posts within their comments on another’s post. It almost always feels like self-promotion and I am weary of this constant self-promo era.

    But maybe I’m being to narrow in this view.

    I agree with this: “If your comment, and your link, adds depth to the discussion, then go for it,” although I will say that I don’t know if I’ve ever really come across the successful “related plug” comment.

    How about the commenters who may not necessarily give a link, but instead leave a comment so long that h/she should have just given a link? Hmm. Now I re-enter the circle…

    1. I wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong with being a purist, Janet! There’s something uncomfortable about reading a load of people essentially jumping up and down at someone else’s party, waving their arms and shouting ‘look at me instead’. It’s why I’ve never plugged anything in the comment’s section of someone else. True, it might have gotten me more views, but so would misleading titles, making up interviews with famous people, and pretending I’m going to give away money to every person who reads one of my posts…

      That’s a very good point you raise about extremely long comments. Out of interest, what sort of word count would you consider going too far? I have seen comments in the past that are almost as long as the post they are referring too, and I think that’s kind of annoying as well. I think if a post you read inspires you to write a several hundred word comment, do it as a post on your own blog, reference the original post that inspired it and credit the blogger, then let them know. If they like what you’ve said/find your argument interesting, then they can plug your post for you.

      1. Too far? I’m not very good with word counts, but I calculated your response and that was just under 200 words – and that seems about right. Maybe we could think in terms of essay planning. If my comment is going to either A) address every single point you bring up in your post or B) require an outline, then that’s too much. Haha!

        (I may have laughed out loud about the giving away money for reading a post… kind of reminds me of bloggers who require you to both follow their blogs AND follow them on Twitter to enter a contest… nothing like artificial popularity… but that’s a different topic altogether.)

        1. Sounds fair to me. I’d say that, for starters, if someone has to scroll down to finish reading your comment, it’s too long! I like the idea of someone sitting there, planning an outline to their comment. “Ok, so in chapter 3 I need to readdress the points I raised in the prologue, and of course there are some ideas in Act 3 that need to be introduced now…”

          Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I suppose they’d argue that if you’re going to try to benefit from their contest/prizes, it’s only fair enough that you do something in return, but there’s nothing worse than a prize that is more about the host than the winner.

  2. Y’know, I wrote a really awesome post about this exact same thing, let me just link you to… oh, wait, no I didn’t. Someday, maybe. X)

    In the meantime, I’m in agreement. Comments that are pure plug are just irksome. I understand, we’re bloggers, we’d like people to look at our stuff. But you’ll catch more flies with honey than with a banner screaming, “READ MY BLO-O-OG!!!”
    Blatant self-advertising turns me off. Y’know what works better? Funny comments. Intelligent comments. Thought-provoking comments. Comments that lead me to believe that the writer of this comment is probably a pretty cool person, so — ooh! Ooh! — maybe their blog will be pretty cool, too!

    Regarding links to *actually related* blogs, Janet’s comment above brings up a good point; if what you have to say honestly takes some 700 words, you might be better off giving the highlight of your idea in brief, then saying, “I go into this in further detail here [link].” People don’t read these comments just to read your blog — via link, or copy/pasted in full.

    1. Well I’m sure when you do write a post, it will be really awesome Danielle 🙂 And brilliantly put – at the end of the day, spamming people is just going to give you a reputation as a spammer. There’s no point having a blog that gets 1,000s of hits every week/month, but if you never get a single Like or comment, then your work obviously isn’t that engaging/worthy of commenting. I reckon the quality of your promotion will be matched by the quality of your response.

      And you put it perfectly; comments that give an idea of your personality and philosophy are great. The ones that make people go ‘hmmm, they sound interesting, I wonder what their blog is like’ are going to be the most effective.

      1. Your confidence in me is as gratifying as it is well-founded. X)
        “I reckon the quality of your promotion will be matched by the quality of your response.” — an intriguing thought, and likely quite true, at least to a degree. There’s bound to be a correlation, in any event.

  3. I don’t think I’ve previously blogged my blog via a blog (although I’m pretty sure I plugged something irrelevent here, but that’s by the by).

    Personally, it’s never occured to me to advertise a blog on a blog (not that I’m now going to take that idea and make a nuisance of myself).

    On the other hand, I do relently publicise various blog posts and podcasts I’ve produced via Facebook and Twitter. In the case of the former, I’ve created a whole page for such ads. Why? Because I didn’t want my personal feed to, as it already was, become just a stream of ads. You need a divide between person and blogger in order to avoid alienating people.

    Consequently, my view on this whole matter (i.e. commenting on blogs) would be to write as yourself. As you say, if you leave an interesting enough response, people can find you via clicking on your username in the comments section.

    1. I think that Facebook pages for your work to plug yourself is a great idea, as you’re right, it gets annoying on Facebook when people start asking you to like their things. Especially the people who then get angry with those who don’t. “Come on, guys, you’re meant to be my friends? Why haven’t you like my page/followed my blog/done this simple little thing for me?” I need to get myself a Facebook page.

      You’ve summed it up brilliantly. You as a person should be the advertisement for your blog. If you go around saying ‘Look at my blog, look at my blog’, people will probably assume that blog is annoying and self-centred.

  4. I have never intentionally plugged my blog through someone else’s comment section on their blog either and like you I am not sure I have ever done it at all.. I have had people do it on my blog. I guess until this post I never really thought about it as a plug for the blog. Therefore, it must have been done in a way that was not obvious.

    I have been a guest blogger and had people guest post for my blog. I have had things I have been posted be reblogged by fellow bloggers and I in turn have reblogged thought provoking posts. I also have been included in numerous weekly blog round up posts. These are ways in which my own blog has been plugged or I have plugged for other people’s blogs. I think of these more of recommendations from a friend. It is like saying if you like my blog your going to love to read… I find self promotion hard.

    I am believer in pay it forward or karma or some other divine magical goodness. I have gained confidence, knowledge and a sense of community through blogging with fellow writers. I think comment plugs for the pure sake of plugging are not necessary. If you establish a relationship with other bloggers through reading and commenting on their work they will usually become loyal or at least occasional readers of yours. I find genuine supportive relationships can form this way and sooner than you know it your followers increase greatly. I don’t think of it as a numbers game though. I relish in the comments and support of my regular followers.

    1. I think I’d feel incredibly guilty if I did, as though I’d knocked something priceless over in a museum and then walked away, whistling innocently. If you didn’t notice those people, then they must have added to the discussion, and backed themselves up by using a link to their post as evidence. I think that’s OK, if it genuinely adds to the discussion.

      I think thinking in terms of karma is a great way to look at it. If you really want to get your blog publicised, let other people do it for you. Write great content and show the love for someone else, and if you’re worthy they’ll reciprocate. That’s one of the things I very much like about blogging and Twitter; the best way to promote yourself is to be selfless and talk about other people/things…

  5. I’ve noticed, that every comment to this post is a bit longer than comments usually are… Everyone wants to make sure their comment is not misinterpreted for being self-promotional… lol. I actually almost didn’t write mine, just because I don’t want to be accused of plugging. But I’ve composed myself and just went for it – your post is very thoughtful, and maybe WordPress could include you thoughts into introductory part of the website.

    1. Haha, yeah I did wonder if anyone would be put off commenting, considering this post is about how commenting on blogs is a kind of plug. That’s very kind of you to say, although I imagine they already have something, probably a bit more ‘rulesy’ somewhere already.

      Thanks for your comment 🙂

  6. Liked this post. Reminded me a little of Flickr, where there is a fair amount of that “hey look at me” by certain people. Hate that stuff. I agree the plugs in comments are irritating. In certain occasional circumstances there might be a benefit, but I’d guess 90% or more of the time, it’s wrong. I try to avoid that in my comments on most websites.

    1. Thanks, and I agree with everything you say. The comments section is about engaging and responding, not jumping up and down, waving your hands shouting ‘Oooo, me next!’ Thanks for commenting 🙂

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