If you blog long enough you will eventually post something that upsets some – or even a lot – of readers. This can happen for many reasons. You may have failed to do the proper research before you posted, you may have made sweeping generalizations, or you may have attempted to be funny and failed (woka, woka, wipeout). Whatever the reason, you put your foot in it. How you deal with the aftermath of an unfortunate post, however, can make the difference between having your transgression swept under the rug or making things a whole heck of a lot worse.
In the not too distant past my husband and I have both written posts that rankled a few feathers. Ten years of blogging = ten years of misteps. While I definitely think we both could have done a better job before we hit publish, I think we did a good job of cleaning up the messes we made for ourselves. I also think we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes. Here are a few examples that any blogger in a similar situation would be wise to take note of.
Admit When You Are Wrong
There is nothing that flames the fires of a controversial post more than failing to acknowledge that you made a mistake. If a post didn’t come off as you intended and hurt feelings, by all means apologize! And do so quickly. Don’t wait until nighttime or the next day as that will only upset more readers. Do it immediately. People will respect you for admitting that you were wrong or made a mistake.
The worst thing you can do? Fight back. Too often bloggers will go on the attack, blasting away at people who took offense and enlisting all their online friend to do the same. If you know you made a mistake, accept it with dignity. And please, please, please don’t try to make yourself the victim. You started this brouhaha, remember?
Engage In The Comments
Your first instinct may be to close comments or to stay as far away from them as possible. While closing comments might be the right thing to do in some circumstances, it will only encourage people to air their grievances about you elsewhere. Instead, respond to your angry commenters personally. Mike is great at this. He spends time acknowledging that commenters are right and agreeing, for example, that he should have done more research. Most of the commenters he responded to in this way thanked him for having done so, and it eased a lot of tensions. More importantly, it lead to a lot of valuable discussion that Mike (and a great deal of readers) learned from.
Have Thick Skin
The Internet ain’t for wimps. Things can get ugly fast, and you have to be able to take a few slings and arrows. Sometimes you have to take more slings and arrows than a medieval army could send your way. Keep your cool. Treat your naysayers with respect, never lose your temper, and write a new post. Then, write another. And another. Keep moving forward.
BONUS! Advice for Blog Readers
You just read something on the Internet, and you are livid. Take a deep breath. Nine times out of ten, the blogger did not mean to offend. A real person wrote those words. Nonetheless, you are offended, and you have every right to express that. Just remember, expressing your dissent will go a lot further toward making an impact if you are calm, rational, and respectful.
Making a mistake on the Internet can seem like the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s no reason to shut down your blog or flame out on Twitter. If you handle yourself with dignity things will return to normal in time, and you will be all the wiser for it.