As a avid wordpress fan, I’m always interested in new tools and gadgets to use on my blogs. Particularly ones that will save me time or increase interaction with my readership. After all, the whole aim of blogging is to provide useful information to your readers – but to be able to involve them in the discussion – WOW! That is very powerful.
However, I see so many new ‘tools’ released that it’s all a bit overwhelming – and after looking at a number of them, I have become somewhat disillusioned in what they offer.
So when I saw the pre launch announcement for WP-Shoutbox, I went and had a look – and wasn’t overly interested. It was only after that one of my clients asked to look at WP-Shoutbox that I thought I should take another look. You’ll see the ‘sales pitch’ for the product just above.
I can’t say that I’m convinced but, there may be something to it – if my clients are asking about it.
Let’s take a look at what it really is…. WP-Shoutbox comes in two flavors – FREE and Paid.
The free version provides you with 3 Shoutboxes (more on that in a minute) which is hosted on, or served from, the WP-Shoutbox server.
The paid version, $17 usd at the time of writing, you’ll have access to unlimited shoutboxes and the software will be installed on your own server.
So what is a Shoutbox? A shoutbox is a box that appears on your site and allows your visitors to add their comments – the benefit is that they don’t have to comment on a specific post – they can just comment and it will appear as a message in the scrolling box.
At the time of writing, the shoutbox was installed in the sidebars on this blog – I don’t know how long I’m going to leave it there – time will tell.
Advantages of the Shoutbox – it provides realtime interaction for your visitors, they post their comment and it appears immediately.
Disadvantages of the Shoutbox – there are a few I can think of….
1. It takes space in your sidebar. Yes, the WP-Shoutbox can be added anywhere on your site however, for maximum benefit, I feel it should be in the sidebar to allow people to interact with you. Real Estate in the sidebars is limited – and if this doesn’t increase readership or stickiness to your site – why would you use it?
Further to that, for it to be useful – I think it needs to be high on the sidebar and will possibly displace something else that is more important.
2. It feels ‘gimmicky’ to me (that’s my word). The feel may suit some sites however, depending on the feel that you’re trying to develop for your site, it may not be appropriate.
3. Width of the Shoutbox – if the Shoutbox is still running on this site when you read this post, you will see that I installed it in the narrower of my sidebars, and it’s just a tad to wide. This limits the places where you can situate the Shoutbox for maximum effect.
4. Open to Abuse – it would be very easy for malicious or nasty messages to be left in the Shoutbox. I’m not talking about genuine feedback either – you know what I mean. Unlike comments on a blog which can be put through the Akismet spam filter or left for moderation and the admin user emailed to tell them of a new comment – you have to monitor your Shoutbox contents and manually moderate inappropriate comments.
I’m not convinced. It feels like a gimmick to me and whilst it might be increase readership interaction and site stickiness, the better way to achieve this is to include compelling content on your blog and interact with your readers that way.
However, I am willing to be proven wrong – if you think it’s a great tool – make use of the Shoutbox in the sidebar and leave a meaningful comments.
If I think the Shoutbox is doing ‘good things’ I’m going to leave it on. If not, I’ll remove it.
So….. tell me what you think…. add a comment to this post and leave a Shoutout in the Shoutbox.
Oh yes, I am an affiliate for the product – which is why I received a pre-launch notification… if you want to try the Shoutbox on your site….. Get WP-Shoutbox here.