Autoresponding to Comments: Will It Help You Build a Better Blog?

BlogHer Original Post

Do you personally respond to each individual who comments at your blog the first time they leave a comment? Do you give them a warm welcome and invite them to come back? Or does that sound like a lot of work?

It can be done simply with an autoresponder. Write a dynamite email, then automatically send it to each commenter the first time they comment. That sounds easier, doesn't it?

That's My Answer Comment form

Here are a couple of examples of autoresponse emails, both from Kimberly Laczniak, who blogs as Indigo at That's my Answer as as Kimberly at Outside my Head. Here's the response Denise got to a comment on Outside My Head, with the subject line, "Just a little thank you!"

Hi There Denise!

Thank you so much for visting my blog, Thoughts Outside My Head, where I
tend to spill my guts on an almost daily basis. You do not mind picking up
my guts and putting them back in your computer screen, do you?

Well, now that you have had your hands all over my guts, I would like to
say that I look forward to getting to know you too.

If you would like to subscribe to my feed, or receive e-mail notifications
of my posts, you can do that here:
http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThoughtsOutsideMyHead

Follow me on Twitter here: http://www.twitter.com/msindigo.

Thanks again for visiting, and welcome to my wonderful group of blog
friends! :-)

Indigo
www.outsidemyhead.com
www.thatsmyanswer.com

Denise forwarded the email to me, and asked if I knew of other bloggers who used autoresponders. I decided that the first thing I would do was to check on Kimberly's other blog by leaving a comment there. I went to That's My Answer, left a comment and got this email, with the subject line, "Your comment makes my blog do a little dance!"

Hi There Virginia & Welcome to Thats My Answer!

Thank you so much for visting my blog as well as answering what may have been the most ridiculous question I have ever asked. Participation through comments tells me that my blog is appreciated ... or that there are very tiny people living inside my computer, and if that is the case, would you mind picking up once in a while?

Here are a couple things to remember: Thats My Answer is a question of the day site! I ask the questions, you provide you answers. It is NOT A MEME. Everyone is welcome to comment, you do not need a blog in order to do so, only an email address, which I see you clearly have. *giggle*

In return for the question absurdity that goes on EVERY. SINGLE DAY. I ask the following:

1. Join in the fun by posting your answer to the question in the comments section.

2. Link back to Thats My Answer if you pose my question on your own site.

If you would like to subscribe and receive e-mail notifications of my posts, you can do that here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/ThatsMyAnswer

Follow That's My Answer on Twitter here: http://www.twitter.com/thatsmyanswer

Would you like to be a Guest Host? http://thatsmyanswer.com/guest-host

Don't forget to check out the Mingle, it happens every Thursday!

Thanks again for visiting, and welcome to my wonderful group of blog friends! :-)

Indigo
www.thatsmyanswer.com
www.outsidemyhead.com

I read both of these emails all the way through. Did you? I read them not just because Denise cracked her whip with a story idea. I read them because 1)they were charming and compelling, 2)they managed to inform me about the writer's other blogs, her RSS feeds, and other self-promotional information without being offensive.

Charming and informative autoresponses to comments. Could that help you be a better blogger? I don't see it done very often. I decided to contact Kimberly and ask her some questions about it. Here's that exchange.

Q: What prompted you to send out a friendly message like this in response to comments? Do you know other bloggers who do?

A: There were a few bloggers who I visited that were using it and I thought it was a great option. Through the years of blogging at That's My Answer I've found that a lot of people come through, leave a comment, and then I never hear from them again. That's My Answer is so much about the blogging community, without anyone there to answer the questions it would die off, and where's the fun of that?

The automated email is an excellent marketing tool! It gives me the chance to reach out to a new commenter with the hopes that they'd find me clever enough to come back.

I looked through my email and it seems as if I've been using it since 2008. I asked Kimberly at Petroville.com about it, so I must have gotten the idea from her blog.

Q: What blogging platform are you using and how do you make this work? Is it a plug in? Do people who comment only get the autoresponse for the first comment, or do they get one each time?

A: I use Wordpress.org and it's a plug in called Comment Relish. An auto response is only sent out when the first comment is made. I'm not sure if it's based off of IP address, email, or user name though.

The link for Comment Relish is:  http://old.justinshattuck.com/2009/04/01/comment-relish-version-20-release/ 

Q: Have you noticed any positive effects from your use of the autoresponder? More traffic? More comments? More sense of community?

A: I have no idea if it's working to increase my traffic. How ironic is that? :) I'd like to say yes though. It at least puts a little note in their email that serves as a reminder. I have received a few replies to the automated email, all of them have been positive.

Q: How did you decide what to include in the email? It manages to be clever while still promoting your RSS feed and your other blog.

A: Gosh, I have no idea how I decided what to include, I wrote both of those replies two years ago and just update them as I need to. I remember that I wanted to be clever and show a bit of my writing style. I definitely wanted to include ways in which to contact me, as well as other ways they could participate in my blog(s).

I searched for something for Blogger blogs on blogspot similar to the Wordpress plug-in Kimberly uses, but I couldn't find anything. If a blogspot blogger knows about something like this, please leave a comment.

There are plenty of products that create autoresponses, but not many are free and not many are meant to simply send a single response to a blog comment. Get Response works on blogspot and other blogs, but it is not a free add-on. Some autoresponders are meant for email marketing campaigns, not for bloggers. Some autoresponders, like MailChimp, are meant to email your RSS feed, not to respond to comments.

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Virginia DeBolt
BlogHer Contributing Editor|Web Teacher|First 50 Words

Recent Posts by Virginia DeBolt

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