You spent hours writing that blog post. You clicked publish and you couldn't wait until the comments started rolling in. You didn't expect the entire internet to agree with your or give you glowing reviews. You thought it would be really interesting to have a conversation with other people online—people who agreed with you, people who didn't agree with you. But then the comments started coming in, and the interesting and thoughtful discussion you were hoping to have, turned into something else entirely.
The first time it happened, you were probably shocked. Why would someone come to your blog and say those things to you? You might also have felt hurt that people would react to your opinions, ideas, beliefs or experiences that way. I bet you were also angry because how dare someone say those things about you. Or about your family members. Or about your friends.
Shocked, hurt, and angry—most of us have been there and will be there again and again and again. Don't let these types of comments get you down. You can still write great content and have interesting discussions and if you're new to this, trust me when I say that it does get easier to handle. (Though I admit that even after almost 20 years of managing online communities I have days where I just cannot handle one more mean comment without my head exploding.)
Here are some tips that I think will help you deal with difficult comments.
1) Where is your line in the sand? Spend some time thinking about the types of comments you do not want to see on your blog and write them down. (I recommend everyone do this, whether they've ever had a mean comment before or not.) If you don't want any profanity, put it on your list. If profanity is fine but you do not want people to use derogatory language and name-calling, put it on your list.
Once you have a list of what you don't want to see, head over to your blog and create a comment policy or your community guidelines as a page on your blog. Link your policy in your sidebar, in your About page, or in your footer. You should also consider sharing the link in any comment thread that's getting a little out of hand—or at the bottom of any post that you suspect will draw the types of comments you don't want to see.
2) Know your platform(s) Be sure you know whether you can block a user or an IP on your blog or your comment platform. Make sure you know what happens if you do block a user or an IP. Try not to block a person or an IP while you're really angry or really upset—or if you do block someone while you're angry, revisit the situation later to be sure you made the right decision.
3)Know your community I know it sounds nuts but remember that you do not have to promote every post you write on every social channel. If you know your Facebook page community members will lose their minds if you share a post you just wrote about homeschooling and you just don't want to deal with the fall out, then you really don't have to share that post on Facebook.
Sure, folks may find it on their own and share it, but by not sharing it yourself, you're probably reducing the number of problem comments you'll have to deal with. Not all content is necessarily suitable for all audiences. It's your content, it's your community—you should be an expert in which content should be promoted in each of your streams.
4) Follow your own policy Once you've created a policy or guidelines, stick to them yourself and make sure that everyone is sticking to them all of the time. If you've said "no name-calling" but you go into your own comment thread (or someone else's) and call names, your policy is not going to do you any good. If your mom leaves a comment that is against your guidelines and you don't remove it, that's not fair and your community is going to ignore your policy or flame you for not treating everyone fairly.
5) Don't ignore your comments Your blog is not the only place where people are commenting on your content. Don't forget to monitor the comments in your social streams or on other sites where you publish content.
6) Don't be afraid to close comments If comments are out of control on a post and you simply can't manage the thread any longer, or you're emotionally exhausted from dealing with the issues, close the comments. If you're leaving the comments visible but just not allowing new comments, leave a comment of your own at the top that explains (nicely) why you've had to close comments on that thread.
You can also, occasionally, publish a post with comments turned off from the start. I don't recommend you do it often, but it's your space and you should do what's best for you. I do recommend that you mention at the bottom of the post itself that you're going to leave comments off and (nicely) explain why.
7) Check your spelling and grammar Before you click publish, read the post out loud. Run it through a spell check. Look carefully at words spell check tends to miss and make sure the post is as clean as it can possibly be. Folks love to come along and point out spelling and grammar errors. When you've written a post that inspires a lot of debate, having spelling or grammar errors in your post seems to inspire people to respond more rudely than they would if your post didn't contain these kinds of errors.
8) Back up your claims Whenever possible, link your sources and make sure those sources are well-respected. Research any claims you make, particularly when writing about health, social or political issues. Again, make sure you're linking respected sites.
Before you share your thoughts on the latest "outrage," be sure to do some extra research of your own to be sure you have all of the facts. Reading one AP wire story about an issue is probably not going to give you all of the facts you need. For instance: You see a news story that says ABC School has a new policy that doesn't allow students to do XXXXX. It sounds outrageous. You're really troubled by this. Before you write your post, look for local news sites that might have covered this school's decision (or issues that led to the decision.) Go to the school district website to see if they've commented on the decision. Look for as much info as you can about why this school might have made this decision.
The more information you have about a situation, before you write, the better. Without all of the facts, you might find yourself being corrected (and not always nicely) by those who have more information.
9) Do not engage I always recommend bloggers engage with their community members in comments—except when engaging is only going to fan the flames. There are times when you simply cannot debate or discuss topics without someone being angry and there are some people who you simply can't engage with at all because they are always angry. If you're commenting and you realize that this person or this discussion is just not going anyway, then stop engaging. You don't even need to say "This is my last comment on this issue." Just stop engaging. It's fine. It's good. It's healthy.
10) Don't talk about difficult comments or difficult people If you've had to delete some comments or you're dealing with a difficult comment thread, do not Tweet or Facebook about how horrible these comments are or how horrible these people are. Don't go into your comments and discuss deletions with anyone. Never discuss Person A with Person C, either publicly or privately. The more people you bring into these difficult threads, the more difficult they become.
I hope these tips help you manage difficult comments and would love to hear which tips work for you.
SheKnows Community Director
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