Blogger and Reader Interaction

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The Comment Section

The comment section is a crucial component of a blog; it is the place where the readers can interact with the content of a post and with other people in the community. The comment section differentiates a blog from a journal entry; it creates a conversation instead of a confessional. It also encourages democratic expression; in other words, it values not only the writer’s comments but also the reader’s.
Bloggers, this guide will assess the influence that you can have over the comment section of your blog and the implications of your contribution to this element of your page.
Note: This page will discuss the rhetorical approach used by the blogger in the comment section only. For a discussion of rhetoric in the blog itself, click here

The Nature of Blog Comments

Blog comments tend to be praise, questions about, or general comments on the original blog post; they may refer to something said in the post, a photograph, or generally to the website as a whole. They are usually conversational, similar to forum posts, and visible to all readers. Blog comments can also be negative; there is a community of "trolls" or negative commentators on many websites, and these negative comments can often be a source of discord between bloggers. Negative comments are generally increased if the user can comment anonymously. The use of negative comments can detract from the sense of community experienced by users of blogs. Therefore, blog authors, avoid enabling anonymous commenting on your blogs; this can help maintain a healthy environment and healthy communication between users.

What do they do?

This public sharing in the comment section serves a different purpose than an individual message to the blogger. For example, if one user asks a question that other users want the answer to as well, they may see the response in the comment section. It is more effective than email in this way. It also contributes to the creation of a secure community. When people share personal information in a public sphere, a prospective commenter will see that the community is one of support and acceptance. Since all comments are shown, and if none are anonymous, everyone is held accountable for their words.

How do these communities differ?

Though a comment section generally establishes a type of community within the readership, the environments created are diverse. Sometimes the author of the original blog post will participate in the conversation by responding to questions and comments. This type of interaction with the users is important. Bloggers, this will make you seem more invested in your readers and thereby help you build a stronger fan-base.

Responding to Your Readers

Another possibility is to respond to readers' comments in a later post. This does not however create the same connection with the reader as responding directly does. Three examples of successful food blogs are 101Cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen, and Lottie and Doof. The authors Heidi Swanson1, Deb Perelman2, and Tim Mazurek3 all respond directly to their readers. These authors have received a lot of recognition for their blogs; they have been featured in renowned magazines such as Bon Appetit and Saveur and have won awards for Best Food Blog and Best Food Photography from sources like Time Magazine and Forbes.
Tim, the author of the blog Lottie and Doof, goes a step further to make a connection with his audience. He comments not only to answer questions but also to express interest in his readers' lives. In his post "My Favorite Plum," he expresses gratitude for the praise of commenter Kellie Ann: "Thanks so much! That is really kind." He also responds to Arielle's enthusiastic review of the recipe: "thanks for letting me know! Glad to hear you liked it." This shows that Tim values his audience's feedback and wants them to get something out of his blog. His posts are not just journal entries, for himself, but an effort to give something valuable to others. Near the end of the comment section, he responds to user Peg who mentions in a comment that she is recovering from surgery and complications. She says she had no appetite until she read this blog post. Tim responds:

"Aw Peg! I hope you're feeling better. It will be great to get back in the kitchen and eating delicious food. Speedy recovery!"

This is an intimate, caring reply to a member of his audience. This will also be viewed by other users and show them that they can count on security and support in the community of this comment section. Tim's willingness to go this extra mile contributes to his popularity in the food-blog community.
For more discussion on different audiences, check out Internet Fandom for Dummies-Audience.

Maintaining Blogger Status in the Comment Section

As a blogger, you have a choice about how to appear in this environment. On the, for example, blogger Tim sets his comments apart from the others with a yellow highlighted and bolded name.


Both Heidi Swanson from 101Cookbooks and Deb from Smitten Kitchen sets their comments apart with a shaded background.


This visual distinction makes it clear whom the original authors are, showing their participation but also superior authorship.

The Personal in a Public Place

Bloggers, examine the diction of your commenters; this is key to evaluating the kind of community that you are helping create. In response to blogger Deb Perelman’s post “crackly banana bread” on Smitten Kitchen, commenters use expressive words such as “yummy” and “amazing!” This community is not concerned with reservation or professionalism; the emphatic diction in each comment does not suggest a need for self-composure. The verb “love” occurs at least ninety times. From “I love millet” to “I love your blog,” the commenters are not wary of politesse. Instead, genuine enthusiastic expression is valued.


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Critiques in the Comment Section

Once in a while bloggers will have to deal with reader critique. Depending on the type of environment that is created in the comment section, these critiques can be an opportunity to share and engage on possible improvements to the original blog.
Commenter Maggie comments on Deb Perelman's recipe for "crackly banana bread" on the blog Smitten Kitchen. She starts out by complimenting the author on one of her other banana bread recipes: "I’d never dream that you need anything more than the Jacked-Up recipe! It’s the ONLY banana bread recipe I use…" (Perelman). This commenter begins by showing her appreciation for the blog and the author's recipe. She then says that despite this, she does modify the recipe: she "double[s] up on the vanilla and skip[s] the bourbon" (Perelman). This is a respectful critique of the author's original recipe. Deb does not respond to Maggie's comment but this modification does provide an opportunity for a blogger to show his or her humility. It would reflect well on him or her to respond to this critique saying "I'm glad that worked out!" or, in a different case, "That sounds good! I'd like to try that modification as well!" This would establish a community that is continually learning and improving. Bloggers keep the format of the comment section in mind; your responses influence your audience's perception of your integrity. Therefore, any responses to critiques, if you choose to do so, must be well thought out because they will reflect your values and what kind of community you wish to foster.

1. Mazurek, Tim. “My Favorite Plum.” Lottie and Doof. n.p., 23 Sept. 2012. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
2. Perelman, Deb. “Crackly Banana Bread.” Smitten Kitchen. n.p., 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2012.
3. Swanson, Heidi. “Lemon Ripple Cheesecake Bars Recipe.” 101Cookbooks: A Recipe Journal. n.p., 21 Jan. 2004. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
4. Swanson, Heidi. “Lemony Olive Oil Banana Bread Recipe.” 101Cookbooks: A Recipe Journal. n.p., 2 Nov. 2011. Web. 27 Sept. 2012.
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