I had an epiphany regarding my Albany Times Union blog and the tone of negativity in the comment section. In the interest of freedom, openness, and free speech I had unknowingly allowed my blog to become a swamp of negativity. I could receive anywhere between 30-100 comments on a post. I allowed just about any comment through my standard comment moderation process, as long as it wasn’t threatening or contained foul language.
The tone of the comments kept coming back to negative personal hang ups with other people. I was providing a platform for people to carry out their personal gripes. I realized that people can do that type of online attack anywhere: Twitter, Facebook, or even YouTube. Unfortunately, the same 4-6 people bickered, constantly. Other people stopped commenting on my blog because a few bad apples were ruining the bunch. Comments constantly got off topic. I had to change things.
Blogging is a challenge and maintaining your cool is key. By following a few simple tips, you can keep readers coming back and generate more interaction:
Don’t take comments personally. Sometimes, people come from left field with a personal attack. Instead of engaging the idea, a commenter wants to get personal. Don’t go there. If a commenter is not sticking to the topic at hand and launches a personal nuke-bomb diatribe, don’t give them the time of day. By a hater getting personal, it will only highlight their problems and not your blog content.
Don’t allow trolls to take over the tone. What’s a troll? Anyone who trolls through blogs looking to start something. Make sure you enable the per-approval option on your blog platform to monitor trolls. If your site gets hundreds of comments a day, it will be a challenge to do this. See if another blogger wants to help with moderation.
Don’t engage in someone who wants to bait you in. As with trolls, some people just can’t separate their ideas from their emotions. Watch out for someone who taunts you and waits for you to engage them. Don’t! Keep your cool and don’t respond. I’ve found if someone is really being nasty, others will come to your defense. That takes the pressure off you.
Do thank commenters for their perspective. Manners go a long way! A simple thank you can generate a positive tone with comments. I use a “thank you” plugin to thank first time commenters for their contribution.
Do make use of email and name requirements for commenting. As this NPR article highlights, anonymous commenters can really bring the tone of a post down fast. WordPress has an option to require a name and email for comments. If things get too crazy, you can ask someone to stop via email. If they don’t give up, just block the commenter. Using Disqus will elevate your game.
Do remember that sometimes people just want to cause trouble. You have to remember that some people just want to stir the pot. They want to get a rise out of you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Don’t give them the power to make you upset. Walk away from the computer and think about your response. Run it by a trusted friend or blogger.
By following these simple six ideas, you can encourage folks to keep things fun, interesting, and engaging on your blog.