One of the most challenging things for any blogger to deal with is negativity in the comments left on her blog. This is true whether you are a newer blogger with a small audience or one of the major players in the momblog space. In fact, in the case of some of the most popular women-who-blog, there are actually entire websites devoted to criticizing their blogs, their writing, their hair, what they named their children…you get the picture
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to completely avoid the bad with the good, meaning that if bloggers want to generate comments and conversation around their work at all, there are going to be some remarks made in the comments that are occasionally or even regularly unpleasant for a blogger to read. Given that I do happen to believe that generating engagement on one’s own blogging platform is an important measure of how well a blog is performing, and after a number of years of experimenting with different approaches for dealing with negative comments, here’s my own list of how to deal with negativity from commenters:
1 – Remember that your blog is your own space. You own it: Just as a restaurant or store owner has the right to maintain a specific environment for her customers and herself, so do bloggers. Don’t feel like you owe anyone the right to bully, harass or abuse you or your other readers in the name of “fairness.” Your blog, your call
2 – Create guidelines: Even if your commenting guidelines are just a line or two long, create a set of clear guidelines for what you will and won’t allow in your blog’s comments, and communicate the guidelines clearly to readers. Some bloggers post their commenting guidelines in the disclosure or “About Me” section of their blogs, while others have commenting sections set up to display the guidelines to commenters as they get ready to post. If you update your guidelines, or they evolve over time, make sure your readers are aware of the changes and why you made them
3 – Be fair and consistent: In order to build an active, organic community on your blog, commenters need to feel like they understand the rules of the road. If you allow one commenter to get away with saying ugly things while banning or deleting another for the same thing, this may come across as capricious and unfair to your community members
4 – Count on your community: Once you have developed a core group of commenters on your blog, allow them to help you manage your comments section by responding to negativity directly. Many times, a new commenter isn’t clear what the tone and personality of the community is, but after receiving feedback from others who have been commenting on your blog for a longer period of time, the new commenter will get the hang of things and become a valuable and positive community member over time
5 – Consider disallowing anonymous comments: After many years of maintaining a policy at my own blog that allows quick and easy posting of totally anonymous comments, my husband is now in the process of switching my commenting system to one that asks for a simple registration before any comment can be made. My views on the value of anonymous commenting have evolved over time, and I now believe that if I am willing to put my name on what I write, those who wish to respond to it should be willing to at least take an extra step and register with some kind of name and email address, even if the name is still a pseudonym or screen name. I anticipate that I will have some drop off in commenting in the short term after the new system is in place on my blog, but I believe the quality of the commenting that takes place will go up, something that benefits my regular readers and commenters
6 – Ignore, ignore, ignore: If your blog develops a readership of any size, you will inevitably receive comments that don’t actually violate the guidelines you’ve established, but really aren’t very pleasant to read. That’s when you need to develop a thick skin and just ignore. Reading the occasional comment that just really gets under your skin is part of the whole blogging package. Responding to all negative comments will make you crazy and will often only encourage a commenter who is trying to provoke you
7 – Don’t allow comments on every blog post: Many mombloggers do not turn comments on for blog posts featuring photographs of their children, particularly children who are past the age of toddlerhood. Over the past year or two, I have experimented with only allowing comments on about half of my blog posts, and I’ve found that this encourages a larger quantity of higher quality discussion in the comments below posts where I do have the comments turned on
8 – Be willing to listen to your commenters: If you find that you are consistently receiving the same types of critical comments from your readers about the same issues, you should consider listening to this free market research. What they are telling you might just be really great advice.
9 – Be a member of your own community: While the conversation activity at Mamapundit is now at a point where I simply can’t respond personally to every comment made, or even chime in on every comment thread, I make a point to be actively involved in the community conversation taking place on my blog as much as I can. For newer bloggers, offering a personal response to as many comments as possible is a great way to get to know your readers, let them get to know you better, and encourage them to become regular readers and community members. My friend, blogger John Cave Osborne does a great job of this, and you can see that his readers love the fact that he personally acknowledges and responds to so many of their comments. As a result of this engagement on his part (along with the fact that he’s hilarious and a really talented writer), his readership just keeps growing.
So those are my top tips for dealing with pesky but inevitable negativity in blog comments. I would really love to hear from other bloggers (and commenters on blogs) on this specific topic.
How do you deal with unpleasant or disagreeable comments? Where do you draw the line with regard to what types of comments you will allow on your blog? How do you feel about anonymous commenting? What’s the worst experience you’ve ever had in dealing with a commenter on your blog? And if you are a blog reader, what do you find encourages you or alternatively, discourages you from leaving comments on the blogs that you read? Tell me in – you guessed it – the comments below.
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