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6 ways to turn comments into content

B2B content marketing comment threads

I’ve got a content marketing secret that I planned on keeping to myself.

But over my Special K this morning, the Angel of Social Media landed on my shoulder (looks a bit like Kylie Minogue but with antennae) and said in her inimitable falsetto, “Sharing is the spirit of content marketing. Give to get, my friend.”

So what the hell. Here it is:

Some of the best content on the web lives underneath the blog posts we’re supposed to be reading: in the comment threads.

If you learn to look, you can turn this gold dust into new content that taps into the mythical Seam of Relevance we’re all looking for.

But most marketers ignore the comments (after all, 40-60% of them are not exactly insight-rich).

But if you skip the nakedly self-promotional ones (“Read my tangentially related eBook!”); the I’m-Smarter-Than-You-Are ones (“This reminds me of the Sartre quote…”); and the comment spam (“V1agra for sex fun!”); the rest are full of goodies.

A recent example is the thread under our recent post about the Content Marketing Backlash. It’s a terrific conversation. Some bloggers have built such a great community around them that they’re virtually guaranteed to generate a terrific comment thread. You could teach yourself SEO just by reading the comments under any ten Rand Fishkin posts. Follow people like Rand.

Comments identify info-gaps

Some comments are in the ‘great post, I agree’ mode (still welcome of course) — but people are often moved to comment because they’ve read the post and found an issue that the post itself didn’t completely or accurately address.

This kind of info-gap usually signals an unresolved issue, the stuff of great content.

Of course, the issues that pop up in comment threads are still in the seed stage. You need to feed and water them to realize their potential. But it’s worth it.

How to leverage blog comments

Here’s the obligatory numbered list:

1) Find the hot topics

The first thing to look for are the posts with lots and lots of comments. These indicate a topic that’s relevant and current. You don’t want to simply lift it for your own blog, eBook or interpretive dance piece but there’s always a new spin on any topic, so look for that.

If you didn’t already know that link-building was a hot topic, a scan of this comment thread would tip you off.

2) Identify new issues

Spend time with the best comments and ask yourself why the person felt the need to add this insight, what distinctions they’re trying to draw out and how that might differ from the blogger’s own view. Often the issue that pops out is completely different from the issue addressed in the original post – but that makes it ripe for exploitation.

3) Find smart people

We’ve discovered some really great people in the comments on our B2B marketing blog. And reading comments on other blogs surfaces fellow content marketers who really know their stuff.

Following these folks extends your circle – and you can invite them to contribute to your own content marketing through interviews, curated posts and guest posts.

4) Curate comments into new posts

Instead of gathering and sharing a list of blog posts, you can gather up your favorite comments. Make sure to add your own analysis and insight or you’re just duplicating what’s out there.

You can also spin the comments from one of your own previous posts into a follow-up post on the same topic.

5) Use comments as sidebar quotes

The comment is the first cousin of the soundbite. Not a lot of people know that. But it makes them ideal for those pithy little sidebars that grace our eBooks, white papers and research reports. Mention it to the commenter and they’ll probably help promote the piece.

6) Analyse yourself

The commenter you’ll get the most ideas from is yourself. A lot of my favorite blog posts grew out of comments on other people’s blogs. You just have to be open to the idea so you notice a blog-worthy one when it hits.

The short comment I made on Bob Apollo’s excellent post about The real reason sales people struggle to close opportunities inspired a post of my own.

Go ahead, give it a go.

If there’s an ascending hierarchy of content, from a twinkle in your eye to a 50-page eBook with integrated video, then think of the blog comment as one of the first, humblest manifestations of an idea that just might have longer legs.

Go forth and trawl those comments for the seeds of greatness.  I really recommend you try this.

Any comments?

 

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Image: A Wordle of all the comments on a recent Velocity blog post.  Can you guess which one?

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2 Responses to “6 ways to turn comments into content”

  1. Graham Charlton

    Hi Doug,

    Great ideas. On Econsultancy, I find comments are a great way to find new topics / angles to write about, while people often make some useful suggestions for new posts.

    I think the volume of comments can be a great indicator of the importance of an issue too. I published a post last year on the EU Cookie Law which attracted 100+ comments, which told us how much confusion and concern there was around the issue. So we followed up with a survey of marketers and a best practice guide to compliance, and both were successful.

  2. Bob Apollo

    Great ideas, Doug – and thanks for the reference. When I first started blogging, I can remember struggling for things to write about. Then I started just capturing things that came up in conversations with clients or events I attended. Really stimulating conversations or events would typically generate multiple ideas. I capture them straight away in a little low-tech moleskine pocket book and then transfer them to the reminders app on my iPhone. Many have also come – as you’ve suggested – from reader’s comments that take the conversation off in a different direction. It’s been a long time since I felt short of potential topics to write about.

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