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Should you use a third-party WordPress commenting system?

By Drew Strojny on June 11, 2014

Choosing WordPress commenting system

Many popular blogs use third-party commenting systems. From social sign in to support for rich media, comment management systems like Disqus and Livefyre bring an array of features to online conversations. Read through these brands’ marketing literature, and you might be convinced that native WordPress commenting is dull and outmoded by comparison.

Yet in spite of the impressive feature suites these two wellheeled organizations bring to the table, WordPress comments still have a lot to offer. In fact, the WordPress comment system provides at least one extremely useful feature for small publishers – a feature neither Disqus nor Livefyre can touch.

Let’s consider that feature and others as we explore the advantages of WordPress native comments and alternative comment applications alike. We’ll begin with the option many of us already know well: the built-in WordPress commenting system.

Advantages of native WordPress comments

This is the comment management system you already have. It already lets readers post new comments, reply to existing comments, and engage with your content as a community.

As an administrator, you can extend the flexibility of comments through useful plugins like Subscribe to Comments and by adding custom CSS that aligns the design of your comment area with your site’s branding attributes.

But for small publishers striving to build an audience, the biggest advantage of native WordPress comments is the ease with which readers can join your conversation. All a reader has to do is enter his or her name, an email address, and a comment. Done. And as basic as that process sounds, it’s the sheer simplicity of WordPress comments that can help you build your blog into an active community of eager readers.

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Imagine: you’re reading a blog post about the WordPress comment system. It’s the first time you’ve come across this blog, but you like the article and have some ideas to contribute. What would you do if adding a comment meant creating a profile – not with the site where the article appears, but with a third party – complete with a username, password, and public profile?

You might be less likely to contribute in the first place. After all, the publisher is asking for a big commitment in exchange for your comments.

Unlike many third-party comment management systems, WordPress comments neither require nor encourage these extraneous steps. And while Livefyre and similar services do offer guest commenting, they often encourage guests to sign up for the service upon leaving a comment.

If your readers find these promotions annoying, they may not come back to your blog.

Advantages of alternative comment applications

What third-party comment apps lack in simplicity, they more than make up for in features. When it comes to Disqus or Livefyre, the two best funded and most ubiquitous comment management systems available, you will enjoy all of the following:

  • Social logins: Users can log in via their social media accounts; if they’re already signed in to those accounts, they can start leaving comments immediately.
  • Built-in spam filtering: WordPress users get spam filtering from the popular Akismet plugin. Switch to Livefyre or Disqus, and you won’t have to bother with Akismet again.
  • Rich media support: If users want to add images or videos to their comments, these apps let them do it.
  • User profiles: What might appear detrimental to new signups could actually help you cultivate an online community. Users can “explore” one another through their profiles and forge new social connections through your blog.

Livefyre increased its customer base by over 600% in 2013, so it’s clear many publishers love the concept behind these applications. But how do you know if what’s right for those publishers’ blogs is right for your blog, too?

Audience insights

The key to knowing whether you should implement a new commenting system is knowing a lot about your audience. If your audience is large enough that you can observe and document specific trends in how users interact with your content, you can also determine whether the features offered by third party comment apps make sense for those users.

Here are some clues that your audience could benefit from a more feature-rich commenting UI:

  • Your community discusses your content on social media. Disqus and Livefyre let you bring conversations from social media into your comments. If readers are having relevant discussions about your ideas, one of these commenting systems could be a good match.
  • Readers link to rich media. If they’re linking to it in the comments, they might want to add it to the comments directly.
  • Other blogs in your niche use third party commenting apps. Readers active on these other sites may already have accounts with Livefyre or Disqus, which would eliminate the ancillary step of creating a profile.
  • You have “room” to experiment: If your blog is growing quickly or you already have a large, loyal readership, trying out one of these apps can function like an A/B test. Compare engagement to native WordPress commenting over a period of time and develop an evidence-based assessment.

New publishers or bloggers with small audiences might not have such insights yet, and that’s ok! The point is that you should have explicit data on your readers before opting for an alternative commenting system. If you don’t have that data right now, one day you might – especially if you stay productive with your blog.

Until then, keep enjoying WordPress native commenting. It’s really a great system. That it’s easier on your readers is just an added bonus.

Photo Credit: Bert Kaufmann

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