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Blog Comments: Do’s and Don’ts to Drive Customer Engagement

 by zack on 26 Oct 2013 |
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Blog commenting is an invaluable link building resource for your website. Interacting with blog followers allows you to form a sense of community among your readers, as well as improve your brand image. Working on a corporate blog, however, can be hazardous. Especially when interacting with negative commenters. Commenters can come in all kinds. You can meet the truly interested and impassioned customers who are genuinely interested about your brand, or you run into the jilted commenter who’s hell-bent on destroying your reputation. You can even run into the ever inflammatory internet trolls who are willing to say anything to get a rise out of you.

The paths you must walk are narrow and the pitfalls are abundant. To successfully traverse these treacherous trails, you must be prepared. You should be able to predict the questions asked and have the answers in hand and at the ready. So let’s take a look at some of the basic guidelines to properly managing the comment section of a blog.

General Guidelines

The trick to correctly managing the comment section of your blog is not to lead but facilitate the conversation. You don’t actually need to do much talking, you’ve already presented them with the content, now your job is to keep interesting and constructive dialogue going. In order to do that you’ve got to keep a close watch on what’s being said. So first and foremost, you’re going to want to:

Keep up with comments consistently

This is big. Huge in fact. There’s no point in having a comment section if you aren’t paying attention to what your readers are saying. So make it a point to keep alert to the comment section’s activity. Without anyone to moderate it, it can become a chaotic playground for internet malcontents of all sorts.

Don’t Ignore Comments

This is a soft rule, the exception is for certain types of negative comments which we’ll cover in the section below. For the most part though, it’s not a good idea to ignore your commenters. If you have a high volume of comments it might be a bit of a strain, but try your best to keep up with the different questions or compliments, or declarations that are being tossed your way. The readers will appreciate your approachability, and be more likely to further engage if they believe you’ll respond to them.

Respond to the Intriguing Comments

This is a suggestion that you won’t have much trouble following, as it comes very naturally. People who have the most interesting points of view will often dominate the online conversation, and for good reason. It’s obviously a lot more fun to talk to someone with a unique spin on things. So whenever you see an especially thoughtful or compelling comment, make sure to do your due diligence in providing a proper response.

Always Ask for More Feedback

Even if every comment isn’t a jewel, all of the interaction that you get with your blog is still valuable. So whenever you enter into a conversation with a commenter, always conclude the conversation with a request for further feedback in the future. If you really enjoy the conversation, you can even ask the commenter to provide you with a guest post. Often they’ll be flattered, and oblige. Then you make an interesting new contact, and get some free content. It’s a win-win.

Be Grateful

In addition to asking for feedback, you should always adopt an attitude of gratitude in your interactions with commenters. It’s very nice of them to be reading your blog in the first place, and the fact that they’re engaged enough to ask a question or make a comment is more than worth a simple “thank you” on your part.

Avoid a Flame War with Politeness

This should be a no brainer, but as with any customer to business interface, your comment section is a lot like a customer service center. People are coming to you with an expectation of etiquette. If they get less than they expect in that regard, rest assured that they’ll remember you lack of tact and hold it against you. So always put your best foot forward, and try to be polite.

Negative Comments

Unfortunately, not all commenters are going to be friendly, understanding, and enthusiastically civilized folk with no bones to pick with you or your brand. In fact, some will be downright hostile. Such is the price we pay for mass exposure. The world is just full of critics. So what can we do to mitigate the damage that negative commenters can do?

Be Like Water

I always relish an opportunity to quote Bruce Lee, and in this case his famous mantra for martial artists applies perfectly. Water is cool, serene, and collected. It’s adaptable to whatever container it’s in. You put water in a cup it becomes the cup. So react to the situation you’re in malleably and appropriately. If your detractor brings up a valid complaint, then give ground where it’s due, but never alter your general congenially polite state of Zen-like patience.
Avoid panic and fear at all costs. It’s alright to get upset, but don’t let it show on the page. Reassess the situation after you’ve calmed down and then respond. But remember that politely, directly, and genuinely engaging a critical commenter will often change the tone of your entire conversation.

Find out who you’re dealing with.

If you’re going back and forth with a commenter, you might want to know exactly who you’re talking to.  This can help you figure out whether you’ve got a truly disgruntled customer or a mischievous trouble maker out for laughs at your expense. It can also give you some insight as to their needs and what value your brand can bring to them. Possibly allowing you to defuse the situation much more easily.

Don’t Forget About Email

If this is indeed a legitimate complaint, you don’t have to address the problem in the public eye. If the conversation is starting to get too incendiary, then just PM your detractor in the same calm amiable manner that you would approach him or her with in the blog section. You might have a much easier time resolving the issue without the burden of being out in the open under public scrutiny. It also adds an element of intimacy between the two of you, which could allow the commenter to open up in a more humble or apologetic way.

Now just occasionally, you will run into an unreasonable, inconsolable, and in all other ways undesirable commenter that has nothing positive to add to the conversation without even a semblance of a reason for being so combative. If you spot one of these ne’er-do-wells, you have but one directive:

Do Not Feed the Trolls!

Trolls thrive on attention, don’t give it to them. If you determine that the commenter is simply a bad apple looking to drag your name through the mud for kicks, then there’s no point in engaging with them. While the internet does open you up to criticism, it’s up to you what content to allow on your own domain. Which leads us to our next point and that is to…

Keep Your Finger on the Delete Button

Here’s some good news, you don’t have to keep every comment on the page. Here are just a few scenarios where it’s entirely appropriate to delete a comment:
  • When a comment is irrelevant or off topic
  • When a comment is obscene or offensive
  • When an anonymous poster leaves comments
  • When a comment is spam
  • Or when a comment is determined to be intentionally incendiary for trolling purposes
So don’t be afraid to get involved with your own online community. You’re the moderator, and have ultimate control of all that goes on in your comment section. So don’t worry about the haters, and have fun talking to your fans about all the interest you’ve generated on the topic you chose.


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