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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