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The Cleartrip Blog is now Social

Last July, we revamped the Cleartrip Blog to improve the design, optimise the site for hand held devices and make it easier for readers to share the blog posts on their social media timelines. The most significant change we made was under the hood – switching from Squarespace to WordPress as our blogging platform.

Squarespace is a fantastic product, but we decided it was time for us to move to WordPress as it gives us more fine-grained control over everything, allowing for any customisations we want at any time. We’re also migrating to WordPress as our CMS at Cleartrip, but that’s a story for another day.

In addition to the benefits we enjoy thanks to WordPress’s flexibility, we also get access to a wide array of ready-to-use plugins from the thriving WordPress community.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed significant and consistent growth in our readership. We attribute this growth to many reasons, chief among which is that we now have more contributors to our blog which has increased the frequency of our posts. Social media channels like Twitter and Facebook have also been huge drivers of growth as readers share links to our blog with their networks.

One of the things that always bugged us is that tons of readers would respond to a blog in their Twitter or Facebook timelines, but those responses were never visible on our blog. The only responses we had visible were where readers posted a comment directly to a blog post. We’ve been thinking about how to make all of the conversation available on our blog, even when the commenting happens outside of the blog.

We evaluated a number of options to make this happen. Facebook comments is growing in popularity, but we ruled it out because a lot of our readers are on Twitter and we didn’t want them locked out. We looked briefly at Disqus and Twitter Mentions as Comments before stumbled upon Social by Mailchimp. The Social plugin came out of a collaboration between Alex King, a web developer at Crowd Favorite (also the guy who created ShareThis) and Aarron Walter, user experience guru at Mailchimp, who designed the comment layout in Social.

Here’s why they built the Social plug-in:

With an active blog, Twitter feed and Facebook page, conversations with customers can become a bit fragmented. Like most bloggers, we tweet and post to Facebook when we publish new posts. In a write-once-publish-many-times kind of web, commenting happens outside blogs even more than on the posts themselves.

Spot on — they had solved the exact problem we were looking to solve.

This was our wishlist when we started looking around for a ready solution:

  • Fetch all tweets that reference a blog post
  • Fetch all shares and their associated replies from Facebook
  • Display all these external conversations chronologically in our blog’s comments area so that we have a single chronologically sorted view of all external and internal responses to a blog post

In addition to meeting our original requirements, Social gave us a few more nifty features:

  • Social allows commenters to log in and leave a comment with their Twitter or Facebook identities.

  • Not only does Social fetch all tweets which reference a blog post, it also fetches retweets and replies to these tweets.
  • Allows you to filter blog comments, tweets, Facebook comments, and trackbacks. We are using this right now but evaluating whether we really need it.

  • Lets you manually check for social comments or paste in a tweet URL. Works great if you want to pull in a tweet that’s really old and cannot be fetched automatically.

Here’s what a comment thread looks like after pulling in conversations from Twitter & Facebook.

Alex King, the developer of Social, has more details and a roadmap for the Social plugin on his blog.

This is our first blog post with the new commenting system in place and we’re excited to see how the network effects will play out. Connect your Twitter or Facebook accounts and tell us what you think of our new commenting system.