The importance of social relevance in commenting

social relevance

Is social relevance a much neglected trait?

Social relevance is something which I find sorely lacking in a lot of comments I receive nowadays.

This evidence is much more noticeable on a blog, but seems to be diluted or overlooked in social media, where irrelevance doesn't matter. Real-time conversations are so diverse and fluid, whatever is said, goes.

But in blogs this is a different case. As they are presented individually, a comment which fails in being relevant sticks out like a sore thumb. It appears as an insult to the author, an intrusion which is not welcome.

Take a look at the infographic about the difference types of social relevance below:

The importance of social relevance in commenting

And here's some code you could paste into your own posts (via the text mode) if you want to share this Infographic with your readers.

Why are so many people irrelevant in their comments?

The answer to this is usually because you're getting spam. Spammers are notoriously irrelevant, because they don't give a toss about the original post. All they want to do is to get their link published.

Therefore what they write has no social relevance whatsoever. Why should they bother? They have a huge list of blogs they have to get through to spread their trash. Most of what they do is cut and paste anyway.

Here is an example of an irrelevant comment which was not caught by the spam blockers:

Knowex spam

My post was about link building. His comment was about the app KnowEx. The sole purpose was to get his link published because he managed to get past the first set of moderators.

And yet did he think I would accept this, when what he says bears so little resemblance to what my post was about?

And then there are those who have to have their say...

Look at these examples:

Jack spam

This is obviously some religious nut who writes complete rubbish so he can include his link. It bears no relation to the host post about creating a homepage.

Shreeja spam

This is a woman who has searched for blog posts which include the word 'recipe', so that she can copy and paste the same comment with her link in every one.

It is totally obvious she hasn't read my post. She had no intention of reading it. She had one purpose, and that was to promote her product. As a result her comment had no social relevance whatsoever.

Shakib spam

What can I say? Even though he included his link within the submission process, and therefore not in the post, how does engineering relate to expanding your commenting reach?

Why is social relevance so important in commenting?

How would you feel if you had toiled long and hard to create a fantastic post on your blog, and then all the comments you get are either spam or irrelevant?

Also, would you go out and do the same thing? Would you write irrelevant comments on someone else's blog? Would you feel comfortable doing this?

Social relevance is about showing respect to the author. It's about acknowledging their hard work, appreciating the information you have gained, and keeping to the same subject without going off at a tangent within your reply.

Commenting is about building a relationship with the blog's author, continuing the conversation and communicating your gratitude for having read their post. You have no right to start selling your product, even if (in your eyes) it is relevant. This is such incredibly bad manners!

How connected are you to your readers?

There needs to always be a common thread to a comment, otherwise how would it be connected to the post it is referring to? It's no good going on about tomatoes, when the post is about finance (unless you have a funny story associated with this, and then you'd be able to get away with it).

When you write your reply, think carefully who is going to read it. Obviously the post's author (or moderator). But what about the blog's readers and other commenters? Are you writing for them, or for yourself? If the latter, you're not going to create much of a connection here.

Social relevance is about understanding what the other person likes to read, as much as keeping to the subject. You could drone on endlessly about model aeroplanes to great acclaim, but if your readers aren't interested, and the blog focuses more on vintage cars, then you could be seen as barking up the wrong tree.

Any comment you write needs to have an affinity with the blog, its subject, the author, the readers and any other commenters. Find a way which they could relate to what you write about. How can you stimulate a reply from them? Commenting isn't a one-way process, it thrives best on interactive follow-up.

Pertinence works best within the right scenario

Especially if any response comes from a reader who is compelled to relate an experience, a story, which is connected to the subject. This is where the social part of social relevance comes in. Being relevant works best if there are people who can associate themselves with the post and its comments, and are stimulated enough to have their say in return.

Social relevance is also affected by change. A commenter may conflict with the post's point of view, and offer a correction. An interesting discussion may arise where readers defend or oppose the main crux of the conversation. But what is important here is that relevance is maintained.

The atmosphere may be altered according to the readers' mood. A commenter may rectify a statement backed up with firm evidence. Others may disagree, resulting in an argument. As long as this is well mannered, and doesn't develop into a slinging match, this could be a great draw on other readers' attention.

But great care must be taken to control the social relevance of this change in direction. Especially if the interchange is happening on social media, and real-time allows people to immediately have their say. Careful monitoring and command is needed here to shepherd the debate down the correct avenue.

Consider your own social relevance when commenting

Next time you comment, hopefully not in a rush with just a few words, take time to consider the impact it may have. Is it relevant to you, or the post in question? How will this affect others who read it? Does it provide sufficient added value to make it worth publishing?

The element of usefulness shouldn't be glossed over when it comes to social relevance. Will your comment benefit someone who reads it? Does it add to the conversation? Could it make a difference to someone's day?

However, relevance is also a matter of perception. What you think is relevant may not be considered so by someone else. Take careful consideration of the words you use so to not undermine the meaning of your comment, and avoid unnecessary confusion.

If every comment written was totally relevant to the subject it referred to, the people it was written for, and the scenario it represented, then the world would become a much better place. Let us know in the comments below what you think about this post.

Alice Elliott
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