Why a Comment Trumps a Like


There’s a scene in the movie “Julie & Julia” where Julie jubilantly shares with her co-workers how she received her first comment. After watching that, I remember telling my husband how much I could relate to her excitement because I felt the same way after receiving my first comment on my first blog. In fact, over a dozen years later, I can tell you it’s still just as wonderful to have someone stop and respond to something I posted.

I often think about new bloggers and wonder if they feel the same excitement as we did in the old school. Back in the day we didn’t have the social networks. We didn’t have retweets, shares or thumbs up icons. We didn’t have buttons encouraging you to follow us or share our stuff with your friends. If folks wanted to respond to our writing, their first inclination was to comment, not “like.”

Our early blogs had dozens, if not hundreds of comments, and links from other blogs who also wanted to discuss what we wrote. These responses tell me a lot more than a quick “like.”

Comments say “thank you”

Don ‘t get me wrong, “likes” are cool. They tell us people dug something we wrote. But to me they’re quick acknowledgement. They’re like saying thank you when handed a gift over taking the time to handwrite a thank you note. They’re appreciated for what they are.

On the other hand, comments say a lot more. Comments say “Thank you for writing this post, it made me think.” Whether you agreed with a blog post or status update or not doesn’t matter. What matters is you took time to read the darn thing all the way through and respond in kind. When you’re a writer, hoping, praying, someone will read your stuff, this means more than anyone can ever know. Comments are like stopping and saying “hello” to a neighbor instead of walking by with a wave.

Most of us scan content all day with nary a reaction. Comments are the difference between a scan and a read. When someone comments after a blog post or status update it means they were paying attention. It doesn’t matter if the content resonated in a positive or negative matter as much as that it reasonated. Stopping to offer an opinion, whether positive or negative, tells us you care about what we do and say.

When we write something and you respond it tells us we touched you. That’s the best gosh darned feeling ever.

Comments are giving back

You may be thinking to yourself, “well, wait a minute. I click ‘like’ when I like something, why isn’t that good enough?” It’s not that it’s not good enough. We appreciate likes very much, but they’re like drive by approval. We absolutely appreciate the support but sometimes we like to know why you gave us that thumbs up. Sometimes people hit “like” after a well – written piece, even though they don’t agree at all. A “like” doesn’t tell us this. Comments are feedback. They tell us how you feel about what we’re doing. We like our likes, but we love our comments.

I’m so busy sometimes I forget to blog.  And I’m the first person to hit “like” after reading a good blog post or status update. After thinking about this, though, I’m going to take more time to think about what I read and comment in kind. And I’m going to work harder to respond to the people who take the time to respond to me, because comments work both ways.

What makes you determine what gets a quick, drive by “like” and what receives a more thoughtful response?

Comments

  1. Nita says:

    Sometimes I hit “like” because, well, I liked the post and I can’t think of anything else to say. Also, I tend to be too chatty, sometimes my comments are too long (in my opinion). To avoid that, I don’t comment. I’m working on doing better. Good thought-provoking post, thanks Deb. 

    • Deb Ng says:

      I can see that. There are also times when I want to comment but someone else said what I wanted to say and I didn’t want to seem redundant. I understand the reasons folks don’t comment but let’s see what I/we all can do about changing that.

  2. sefcug says:

    I comment when I have something to say about the post, or if I can add to it, otherwise I hit like.

    I get a few comments on my blogs, and always try to reply, whether it is a good or bad, as I appreciate their taking the time to comment at all.

    • Deb Ng says:

      Absolutely, and I will say commenting for the sake of commenting sometimes is a bit lame.  But if you have a specific feeling or thought about a post, why not take 60 seconds to write it down?

  3. I really try to comment whenever I see a post somewhere with no comment love. We’ve all been there, feeling like we’re talking to nobody. So whenever I think I can say something coherent, I do it. I wish others did the same. 

  4. Susan Silver says:

    To answer the question, for me, I like when I don’t have a comment to say on a post. I “like” it and want to support the blogger, but I can’t think of anything worth saying. Great job doesn’t cut it for me *lol* Lots of people agree with things people say, but those comments don’t add much value to a conversation. 

    • Deb Ng says:

      I think that makes perfect sense,Susan, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I hope you don’t have the impression we don’t appreciate likes, because we do. Very much so.

  5. Deb, I always seem to be strapped for time. But I’ve been meaning to come over here and thank you for something related to this topic. On vacation a month ago, I finally got down to actually reading your book, as opposed to browsing it. Can’t believe how busy I got over the fall/winter and I got behind on my reading. So I’m on the plane and got to page 13 and SHAZAAM! I’m in Figure 1-1 as a Top Commenter, “WagnerWrites.” I was sitting next to a complete stranger during the flight but I made her look and listen to my explanation of why I was so excited. (She was very nice and gave me some great travel tips, too.) The choice of photos was good and gave me a laugh. So that was my one second of fame in social media and I have you to thank for it. Very interesting coincidence that I would finally remember to acknowledge it on a blog about commenting. I will try to comment more often from now on, but do know that I always read!

    • Deb Ng says:

      Claire - 

      You have always been such a wonderful and supportive friend. I’m so happy to give something back, even if it’s putting your avatar in the book.

      No matter how strapped you are for time, you always have time to comment here and I appreciate it so much.

  6. Laura Spencer says:

    I think there are two culprits: time and lack of anything to say.

    I know that I’ve been guilty of both. Sometimes I really, really want to answer a post, but I’m just too busy to leave a comment. That’s kind of sad, actually, because it means I’m not engaging…

    The second problem is when I read a post and I think to myself, “Wow, this blogger is right on target.” But, I just can’t think of anything to add. It can so lame to leave a comment that says something like “great post, keep up the good work.”

    However, I’ve resolved to go out today and leave a few comments. :)

  7. Mary Helena says:

    I actually do NOT like the “like button and wish I could banish it from my online presence! I ONLY want comments, if people cam’t be bothered to comment, then I don’t care if they “like” or not. It’s like the people who hit the “friend” button with no intention of actually getting to know you. I don’t have time for them..sorry!

  8.  One thing I believe contributes to people giving Likes rather than commenting is their being scared of being put in the spot light in the comment section.

    Most people are scared of what strangers think of them. They wouldn’t tell you this but rather would say they’re shy. Shyness is nothing but a softner for being afraid of doing something wrong or doing something that isn’t cool.

    Having my own site is what’s really proven this to me because I get a ton of email interaction with people who write and write and write when they feel only one person is seeing their message and I’ll never see this person make a comment on the site.

    This is why I think it’s important to leave the email door open as well because the people we talk to via email have become some of our best customers but this may never have been the case had they not had that extra way to communicate directly with us.

    I know email convo’s don’t give the big ego boost from seeing the comment section loaded up but for me a larger bank balance trumps a larger amount of comments and this is why I’ll always leave a door open for the people who aren’t as confident as the rest of the commenters but still like to express their opinion and be recognized.

  9. I think you are right about comments…too many of us forget to write and it’s just sooo much easier to hit the like button in our face-paced world that people forget. It’s also easy for folks to click “follow” though and that keeps them in touch for the future ;) (oops sorry about the double pic LOL that wasn’t necessary) Cheers

  10. Del The Dad says:

    I like to comment, just seems some dont care for my comments (positive and critical), since I am not a fixture online. That is not a good attitude to have towards anyone, especially people that  are readers of blogs. Real people with real opinions should be treated just like those who spend a lot of time in online circles and groups. That may be a reason people do not comment as much as they would like, because they dont feel that their opinion or thoughts matter, just my thoughts.

    I like to hear new peoples opinions, ideas, and thoughts, but that is just me. But at the same time it seems bloggers use the comment as a way to treat people with respect and a way to show disrespect, by not commenting on someones blogs anymore. You (not you Deb, but the commenter) dislike someone, dont comment, and groupthink can kick in.

    What I was saying is not directed at you of course, your a great person. Its just in regard to the topic of comments online. I also wonder if its just the hassle, if someone searches an article through a search engine, maybe they may want to leave a comment, but the process of logging in or establishing who they are makes it a pain. Again you touched on a subject that more people should discuss or consider!

  11. Del The Dad says:

    I like to comment, just seems some dont care for my comments (positive and critical), since I am not a fixture online. That is not a good attitude to have towards anyone, especially people that  are readers of blogs. Real people with real opinions should be treated just like those who spend a lot of time in online circles and groups. That may be a reason people do not comment as much as they would like, because they dont feel that their opinion or thoughts matter, just my thoughts.

    I like to hear new peoples opinions, ideas, and thoughts, but that is just me. But at the same time it seems bloggers use the comment as a way to treat people with respect and a way to show disrespect, by not commenting on someones blogs anymore. You (not you Deb, but the commenter) dislike someone, dont comment, and groupthink can kick in.

    What I was saying is not directed at you of course, your a great person. Its just in regard to the topic of comments online. I also wonder if its just the hassle, if someone searches an article through a search engine, maybe they may want to leave a comment, but the process of logging in or establishing who they are makes it a pain. Again you touched on a subject that more people should discuss or consider!

  12. Del The Dad says:

    I like to comment, just seems some dont care for my comments (positive and critical), since I am not a fixture online. That is not a good attitude to have towards anyone, especially people that  are readers of blogs. Real people with real opinions should be treated just like those who spend a lot of time in online circles and groups. That may be a reason people do not comment as much as they would like, because they dont feel that their opinion or thoughts matter, just my thoughts.

    I like to hear new peoples opinions, ideas, and thoughts, but that is just me. But at the same time it seems bloggers use the comment as a way to treat people with respect and a way to show disrespect, by not commenting on someones blogs anymore. You (not you Deb, but the commenter) dislike someone, dont comment, and groupthink can kick in.

    What I was saying is not directed at you of course, your a great person. Its just in regard to the topic of comments online. I also wonder if its just the hassle, if someone searches an article through a search engine, maybe they may want to leave a comment, but the process of logging in or establishing who they are makes it a pain. Again you touched on a subject that more people should discuss or consider!

  13. Absolutely right. In the hierarchy of Social Gesturing, commenting ranks probably the highest because of the commitment it takes. It takes less than a second to share/like/link to, whereas it can take minutes to respond to someone thoughtfully.

    What most people miss about commenting, is that- Every comment is an implicit link about a person and a potential relationship that is waiting to be developed. The Comment section of a blog is often more valuable than the post itself in vibrant communities such as Fred Wilson’s AVC for example.

    And what’s better than commenting is the follow-on discussion you can have. The challenge for users is to manage their multiple conversations across social networks, blogs and other communities. That’s why I founded Engagio as a conversation Inbox that focuses on just that.

  14. Mihaela says:

    Hi Deb! It’s my first visit here and this is the first post I read on your blog. I find it fun and thoughtful, and I just want you to know that. I found your blog while trying to figure out what this social media is. I’m a writer for a glossy magazine, thinking to start a blog – and haunted by dozen of questions and doubts. Anyway, I’ll continue to read your blog (I find it inspiring), and hopefully comment (yes, another dam busy reader!). Oh, I hope I didn’t make to many mistakes, as English is not my native language (you now have a Romanian reader)!

  15. Tracy says:

    I typically comment when I’ve enjoyed someone’s content; primarily becasue I enjoy the interaction. “Likes” are fine, but as you mentioned they don’t tell the author much and after the “like” button is pushed the opportunity to learn ends.

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