Last year my friend, digital life columnist for The Seattle Times and Northwest tech news site GeekWire, Monica Guzman asked me about commenting online. Her question was about whether or not I would comment on a newspaper column or article about a controversial issue.
I responded that I probably wouldn’t comment directly on the newspaper site because of comment feeds I’ve observed go rogue (for lack of a better term). If have a strong opinion about an issue, I use one of my social media platforms to discuss it.
Comments Gone Wild
We’ve all seen articles with a comment section gone wild. An article about the victim of a car crash, or a suicide, overtaken by people eager to leave mean or harmful comments. I’m not talking about constructive or valuable comments, but those which seem unrelated or intentionally toxic. I don’t have any interested in interacting with these people – trolls – online.
Monica was writing about the commenters on newspapers when she opened the discussion.
“But let me be clear — a toxic forum is never acceptable. There are ways to inspire order in chaos that lead to incredible collaboration and understanding, as community managers on this site and others know well. The most inclusive conversations won’t always be nice. But they’ll always be open. They have to be.” – Monica Guzman.
I agree a news site should allow most comments and conversations.
As for my own social media platforms, I have guidelines. I appreciate comments when they are helpful or thoughtful. I don’t mind if they’re negative as long as they are fact-based or reflect an opinion which relates directly to the subject at hand.
My husband had a write-up once in the regional paper. We weren’t sure how the final article would be perceived. As we scrolled down to the comments section we laughed out loud. “I don’t know anything about this dude, but he has awesome hair.”
If you put yourself or your business online, you should expect that there will be comments and posts about you. You should also expect that not everyone in the world is going to be in love with you.
My daughter told me the best advice I ever gave her was “Not everyone is going to like you. Be okay with that.”
Be as transparent as possible
I advise clients to be as transparent as possible. Let your online communities have the opportunity to engage with you through comments and posts on your sites. With a caveat. In all of my profiles, I include a paragraph that explains my rules of engagement.
As the owner of a profile on a social media platform you have the right to set up rules and expectations for your community. If you believe an individual is not willing to have a constructive conversation or change offensive behavior, you can refer to your policy. If the individual still refuses to stop the offensive behavior you can take action by removing the post or not approving the comment.
Here is my policy on my Facebook page. You are welcome to cut, copy and paste it: About Imelda Dulcich Public Relations
Monica opened up a good discussion about commenting online. You can read more about our discussion and her thoughts in the column Why the Wild West Web Must Remain Untamed.
Have you ever had to deal with negative comments online? How did you deal with it?