9 social comment solutions to increase engagement.

November 6, 201012 Comments
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Conversation is massively important online for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps you build rapport with your audience, and secondly it provides you with fresh as a daisy content for your site.  An active comment stream is also  a sign that your content is both healthy, useful and engaging, and with typically less than 1% of visitors commenting; over the past few years I’ve seen a number of social comment systems crop up out of the woodwork which have attempted to make that process easier.

There are a number of potential solutions available for free on the web today,  yet personally, I haven’t implemented a social commenting system here – other than the standard WordPress solution. Mainly, I have concerns over these solutions being another potential point of failure. What happens if one of their servers going down, and will it negatively impact the speed of my site?  What costs to site speed, and the overall experience will these additional requests place? That said, I am a late adopter / stick in the mud / grumpy git at times, so my decision is somewhat irrelevant. Anyway. I digress..

I’ve highlighted the solutions here which leave your comments still attached to your database, your comment markup unchanged, and make their business model known to customers – so you can be confident that content which belongs to you, aren’t likely to be monetized by a third party, or that the SEO benefits of comments are still intact. Considerations which should all be taken into account before implementing any third party widget or tool on your blog in my opinion – no point in working your hiney off, for some other web application to swallow it for lunch, without so much as a thank you. So without further ado – the low down on social comment systems on the web.

Disqus

URL: http://disqus.com/

Markup: HTML

Data held: Both On Disqus servers, and your own.

Search Friendly? Yes

Noteworthy Disclaimers: “By posting content, you are granting permission to us and others to access and use it in connection with the Services, the Site and otherwise in connection with our business.”

Business Model: Additional features for larger publishers (paid)

Installation Difficulty: Medium / Low

YCombinator backed Disqus offer a number of features to their comment system. Firstly, the login system has integration with Facebook connect, Twitter, OpenId and Yahoo.  Users can also choose to leave a comment as a guest, much in the same way that standard blog comments do.

Logging in does obviously have its benefits – firstly it makes your users accountable, as comments are tied to a social profile elsewhere on the web, and secondly your users get a few simple benefits such as their profile images being associated with comments, and name and url fields being autofilled in. The other major benefit is that your profile remains logged in from site to site; meaning you only have to login once with Disqus, and that persists then on every website which utilises it’s system.

Comments which are made once logged in are also recorded from around the web in a central location, allowing Disqus users to manage comments (including deleting them), in one place.  ’Connections’ allow you to integrate other social properties from around the web such as Tweeting or sharing comments on Facebook, or adding those comments to your blog. Incidently, tweets are brought in by default, if a twitter user posts a link back to your page. this allows you to see the Twitter conversation alongside your own “traditional” conversation really easily.

Support

There are a number of blog platforms supported by the team including WordPress, TypePad, Tumblr and Moveable Type, which should cover any serious blogger. For anyone else, there are implementations for Drupal, Joomla, SquareSpace, Yola / Synthsite , DokuWiki, Storytlr, Sweetcron, Sandvox and Chi.mp. If you still don’t fall under any of these categories – worry not, as there is a plain vannilla Javascript only solution available. Bear in mind though that the javascript implementation is unlikely to result in your comments being crawled by search engines.

InstaComment

URL: http://www.instacomment.com/

Markup: HTML

Data held: InstaComment Servers

Search Friendly? No

Noteworthy Disclaimers: “You understand that by using our service, it may cause unwanted server operation on your end, which we are not responsible for.”

Business Model: None obvious. Free service.

Installation Difficulty: Low

Instacomment works purely as a javascript solution for your website comment box. I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than a small site operation, and it certainly isn’t robust enough to handle a full fledged blog engine. If you are however in need of a quick implementation, which is unobtrusive to a site design, it may well be up your street. The UI is clean, easy to navigate, and allows both free form, and moderated conversation to occur on your site easily.

There are a number of features available, such as RSS feeds, Akismet integration, cross browser support, captcha tag and advanced IP banning if you find abuse of your comments becoming a problem. Overall a well written little solution; albeit, perhaps too lightweight for some.

Echo

URL: http://aboutecho.com

Markup: HTML

Data held: Both on Echo servers and yours

Search Friendly? With some work. See here.

Noteworthy Disclaimers: None to be found

Business Model: Paid service

Installation Difficulty: Medium

One of the sexiest comment systems I’ve seen on the web so far is Echo. With a number of additional extras such as bringing photos and videos to the comment stream, it offers a much richer experience than any other solution out there on teh web today.  Acquiring other comment solutions (namely SezWho and HaloScan) has led to Echo becoming a major player in the comment solution ecosystem.  SezWho in particular, bringing commenter reputation and identification firmly to their offering. They are however somewhat elusive; you need to be generating up to 1 million pageviews a month before you get a lookin at pricing, so that will put many of the smaller publishers off. If they could squeeze out a cut down product, I’m sure those in the 500,000 PV range would bite.

There is a strong concentration on realtime within the Echo implementation, which turns your comment stream into a living, breathing entity, and a number of social profiles are supported to lower the barrier to commenting.

Echo “listens” to data streams from Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, Del.icio.us, and other social sites. If they find that someone is mentioning your post (by URL), then they insert that item into Echo chronologically.

Support

For the user side, at time of writing, Facebook, Google, Twitter, FriendFeed, Yahoo, Blogger, OpenId – and old Haloscan and JS-Kit accounts are supported for your visitors, and within each of these that you attach to your account, sharing support with your network is implemented, helping to drive traffic back to the publisher website with each comment placed.

Another much needed feature which works particularly well, is clustering of comment threads, allowing multiple comments to be placed as replies to each, then collapsed on a set limit, allowing other fresh comments not related to a thread to exist alongside. This includes Tweets and Retweets, which Echo automagically pulls in alongside your comments in a similar way to Disqus. A very tidy solution all round.

Intense Debate

URL: http://intensedebate.com/

Markup: HTML

Data held: Both yours and Intense Debate servers

Search Friendly? Yes, if on a supported platform.

Noteworthy Disclaimers: “I hereby do and shall grant IntenseDebate a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable and transferable license to use, edit, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, perform, and otherwise fully exploit the User Submissions in connection with the Site, the Service and IntenseDebate’s (and its successors and assigns’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Site (and derivative works thereof) or the Service in any media formats and through any media channels (including, without limitation, third party websites) and to allow others to do so.”

Business Model:

Installation Difficulty: Low

Intense Debate was acquired by Automattic (the guys behind WordPress) wayyy back in 2008.  They have produced a system which has comment threading, email notification and comment voting available out of the box. As with Disqus reply by email, allowing your audience to respond right from their email client – giving a certain level of control from mobile devices.

The social profiles which are implemented to allow your visitors to get involved are the usual suspects (Facebook and Twitter) and also, OpenID – which frankly doesn’t get much traction on its own, without being wrapped up in a similar way to Clickpass. There is much more of a social network feel to what IntenseDebate have built, as your own central comment profile allows you to ‘follow’ other users, and keep up with the conversations they are partaking in.

An automated installation routine is available for WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, and Tumblr, with again, a generic javascript solution available for those who aren’t on one of these platforms.

Really there isn’t much between Disqus and IntenseDebate, personally, I’d probably say Disqus has the edge, as it both has a larger number of platforms supported, and the installation process seemed to be a little slicker. That said however, both implementations keep your data in the WordPress MySql db – so you should be sweet to implement both and try them out for yourself.

Others Worth a Mention

KickApps Comment System – Really interesting API which allows you to garner custom information from your customers, and display both their thoughts AND their feelings.

coComment – Keep track of every single one of your comments, or someone else’s, and the responses to them… wherever they occur. CoComment summarizes all of your comments, and the responses, in a single location and notifies you of any updates to any of them.

Tangler – a live discussion forum, which can also double up as a comments system.

SiteLife Comments – High end comment system for high traffic blogs driving additional engagement.

BazaarVoice – ratings, reviews and comments on e-commerce platforms used to drive additional sales.

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

Comments (12)

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  1. As blog owner I usually avoid using these plugins because mostly the slow down page load. Intense Debate and Disqus use ajax to load the comments but still there is some problem with them and they always load slow.

    As commenter (I usually use comments as promotion tool, which is basically what I’m doing right now) I like Intense Debate the most. I like the feature where you can create a number of name/title under one account and change them on the fly while commenting.

  2. Nancy says:

    Paul, I just left a comment moment ago and I think it went straight into your spam filter. please please mark it as “not spam” or delete it after wards. Actually this is one more reason why I like these plugins. You are always protected from goddamn akismet false positive.

  3. Paul Anthony says:

    Hi Nancy,

    The main reason I’d say you are having problems with your comments making their way into the spam filter, is that you are using your keywords as your link text when commenting on blogs rather than your name. I’ve turned off links back to people’s site because of this. The second reason, is that ‘pharma’ as a word is pretty hot in the world of spam, so that ups your spam score as well.

    If you are genuinely interested in leaving a comment and join the conversation – you’ll do it regardless of the linkback. In any case, comments are nofollowed, so don’t add any value to search engines – which is why I’m assuming you are using link text in the first place.

    Paul

  4. Nancy says:

    Thank you Paul for approving my comments. But I think you have missed my point. I use blog comments to prompt my blog and I drop my link whenever I see an opportunity. I hope you also do the same thing to promote your website. I usually use “Nancy@keyword” format not to offend blog owners and look all spammy sometimes. But I left a straight up keyword/url link on your post because I new who I’m dealing with. Just like you, no body can fool me or try to take advantage of me unless I let them to do so. And I see that you have activated your comment section and it says that you can include a link back to your website. I just used the options you made available on for public and I left you my opinion. If you say this wrong, I would like to see what other webmasters have to say about this.

  5. Hello, I’m the Community Manager at Tangler. You should also have a look at our new product: TanglerLive (http://www.tanglerlive.com). In developing TanglerLive we have held great store in removing any obstacles to creating a discussion. Users can now post without being registered and can moderate their conversations. And finally, you can still embed the discussion on your blog!

  6. fatima nasir says:

    What would be good for beginners? who do not want the hassle i have heard of blogger, is that any good?

  7. John says:

    I’ve found Disqus to be very search engine friendly. However, for the most interaction I’ve seen Facebook comments be very effective. People tend to post relevant comments and are less likely to spam since most comments will appear on their wall, and as we know, spammers operate in the dark.

  8. Awesome links. Livefyre is also a good resource for a commenting engine.

  9. Paul says:

    yes i absolutely agree! very time consuming though! keeping it all fresh then commenting all the time. but its a life hey! ;-)

  10. Brad says:

    Another great post, thank you. I just had a request for a discusion platform from a client and this post helped me make up my mind as to which one to use. Great stuff!

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