How to Respond to Comments on Your Company Blog

by Shannon Paul on September 20, 2010

For so many people nothing feels scarier than opening up yourself and your business to reader comments on a company blog; even seasoned bloggers recognize the difference between blogging for yourself and blogging for your business when faced with the challenge.

Over the past couple years, I’ve had several conversations around how to manage comments — not just the workflow with respect to approving, reading, responding — but also the perspective necessary to have thick enough skin to distance yourself a bit from the sentiment or opinion being expressed.

Forget sentiment (mostly)

One of the things I tell prospective business bloggers is to forget about getting people to agree with you all the time, but rather, focus on maintaining the momentum of the conversation you started and guide it back to staying on point. It’s not important whether everyone agrees with you, but it is important to acknowledge and appreciate reader participation, keep the conversation interesting and to guide the conversation in the desirable direction.

The good the bad and the ugly

If your only experience with comments is on your local newspaper or YouTube, you probably don’t have a very good opinion of user generated comments. The good news is that with most blogs where the author participates, this is not typical. If building an online community is your goal, blogging can help if you have a plan in place to foster participation.

  • Good comments are those that move the momentum of the conversation
  • Bad comments can be thin, spammy or try to bait the author
  • Ugly comments are profane or abusive toward the author, other readers or anyone else

The thing I like about defining comments like this is that it removes sentiment or agreement out of the equation — a comment that sharply aligns with the opinion of the author (and is even complimentary) could fall under good, bad or ugly depending on how the agreement and opinion is expressed.

Good blogs encourage healthy conversation — they don’t try to stifle it.

For more on how I train people to think about and respond to comments on company blogs, check out this slide presentation I put together awhile back and recently posted on Slideshare:

How to Respond to Comments on Your Company Blog

View more presentations from shannonpaul.

Taking it one step further

The reason I decided to post this is because I found so little out there on the subject of responding to comments — there seems to be a lot of advice on how to get people to comment in the first place, but having consensus on how to view and respond to them should be something we at least think about up front.

This presentation might be very basic for lots of people on this site, so I’m interested to know how you might be helping people on your team get comfortable with the dialog that social media engagement implies.

What would you add to this presentation to help others understand the best way to engage with readers on your company blog?

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 14 comments }

September 20, 2010 Jim Robinson

I like the presentation. One thing I’m interested in hearing more of your thoughts on, however, is dealing with “trolls.” I agree with reserving the right to delete ugly posts, but do you think the offending users should be notified and pointed to a standard policy, or do you just delete and move on? I had a bad experience recently when I removed a user’s ugly comment and very politely explained why. He got much uglier and used every tool at his disposal to malign me personally & publicly.

September 20, 2010 Shannon Paul

Jim –

I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to point someone exhibiting “troll” behavior to a policy upon deletion. Deleting and moving on is one method — the policy should only ever be invoked if they reach out via official channels to complain about you to others in your company.

Another (slightly more controversial method) involves making trolls’ comments only visible to him/herself. This tends to work as well since most people who resort to troll-ish behavior are really working to attract negative attention.

November 29, 2010 Ari Herzog

It’s curious you don’t have a comment policy here, Shannon. Any reason?

October 17, 2010 Des Walsh

Thanks for the share. The presentation incorporates some excellent advice.

The most serious challenge I’ve had was when a post in which I praised a particular product drew a hostile response from someone who had a grievance with the company. I really thought the response was over the odds and contacted the company concerned to ensure they knew about it and could respond. They tried, but the original commenter would not give up. Eventually the company chief with whom I was in correspondence indicated he had better things to do with his time. In the process, one comment was quite over the top and in my non-lawyer view bordering on or actually actionable. I deleted that, told the author why and gave him a chance to send an edited version, which he did, but as I say the company exec, for whom this was not the first engagement with the person in question, decided to disengage – with the parting note to me that he was sorry the discussion had spoiled what he thought a good post. I had met the exec in real life and know him to he a respected, well-liked man, and I felt bad that he’d had to be hectored by this commenter. I’m guessing he did not bear a grudge as he accepted me as a friend on Facebook a a couple of weeks later!

It was an interesting experience of wanting not to censor a discussion but also not to allow it to go beyond the bounds of basic courtesy and respect for others. I actually think I would be faster and tougher in response next time and be willing to be labeled a censor.

It’s not just about legalities, in my view: it’s significantly about the values of your blog/business.

October 18, 2010 Shannon Paul

These things happen, although not often. Sometimes it really is better to disengage as long as a response has been posted — responses should be posted, not just for the person leaving the nasty comment, but so the 99% of the rest of the folks who read through see the response.

Most of this should be about inspiring the passive supporters to become active supporters — NOT about inspiring active detractors to become active supporters, which is usually hopeless.

October 17, 2010 Daniel Snyder

Great post thoughts, as I’ve never read a post about how to respond to comments. I have to say well over 90% of comments on my blog are positive. My biggest struggle is in actually getting commenters to participate in a conversation rather than just giving affirming feedback. It seems difficult to start a thread where questions or opinions are giving and responded to. Any thoughts on that?

October 18, 2010 Shannon Paul

Oh so many thoughts on that, but it’s an entirely different conversation that addresses content. My question back to you is why do you want comments? For a lot of business blogs comments don’t really do anything to move you toward your goals yet so many people seem to have it stuck in their head that comments are important nonetheless.

As far as encouraging comments, asking questions is a great place to start — in the headline or in the closing paragraph. I do this all the time. Sometimes people go off in one direction or another simply answering the question and you don’t always end up having the discussion you tried to have in the first place, but it helps prompt people to post an answer as a comment.

October 18, 2010 Daniel Snyder

Yeah I realize that the content of the post is the driving force behind the comments (obviously)… My blog is not a business blog, but rather one to share advice and tips that are directly related to technology, info security and blogging. Sparking conversation is an end goal to have readers benefit and help one another. I make sure to ask questions at the end of posts as you do…

November 15, 2010 dreambox 800

Thank you for sharing this information. Iam new blogs and have only recently begun to receive comments on my blog, I now have the confidence to respond.

November 22, 2010 Rowan

Lovely hosting thoughts, thanks for sharing them. I totally agree with the idea of thinking about things as “good” rather than whether you agree or not. I’ve reblogged you here by the way: http://veryofficialblog.com/2010/09/20/how-to-respond-to-comments-on-your-company-blog/

November 7, 2011 hosiery

Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Cheers

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