No matter how cheerful your posts are, you will invariably have to deal with some naysayers and nasties at some point.
OK, it doesn’t exactly require riot gear to moderate your comment threads, but thick skin and firm standards certainly help. You’re basically there to keep the peace, and steer the discussion away from the flames and toward productive topics.
Getting critical comments—be they constructive or otherwise—is absolutely unavoidable for any blogger. In fact, fear of such comments has held many a creative soul back from blogging. But you shouldn’t let your apprehensions about this facet of online life intimidate you or detract your enthusiasm.
In fact, your policy on and reactions to negative comments can be a huge factor in establishing the ethos of your blog’s community. How you respond to these kinds of comments will set you apart and define your character—and, if you’re blogging as a business owner, will send strong signals to your potential commenters.
Different bloggers have different approaches.
The thoughtful will carefully engage detractors in an intelligent and reasonable debate. The thick-skinned will poke fun at meanies. The Pollyannas of the internet will post a thorough section on their expectations of positive commenting and will delete anything with a hint of snideness or profanity.
But every seasoned blogger will have developed their own techniques for dealing with negative comments. Here are a few helpful tips and coping mechanisms for the bad/ugly spectrum of comments, from the ugliest insults to well-meant critiques.
Don’t feed the trolls!
This is Rule One of online communication. It simply means that while you will encounter ‘trolls,’ those are web-dwellers who exist online for the purpose of inflicting emotional pain on others, you are under no circumstances to ‘feed’ them, or show any sign that you notice or are affected in any way by their antics. If you get a ‘trollish’ comment, delete it, do not respond to it, and move forward immediately without paying any further mind.
Take the high road
If someone leaves a nasty comment or one that’s just critical of your work, you can always come out on top by being unflappably gracious. A simple, ‘I’m sorry you feel that way. Have a great day!’ can quickly and successfully close the matter, allowing you to save face, still remain in control of the situation, and not be dragged into a flame war (a heated back-and-forth that sucks everyone involved into a maelstrom of negativity and hyperbole).
Sometimes, you don’t have to respond with a correction or rebuke to an obviously incorrect negative commenter. Your other readers will come to your rescue—a good sign of a healthy community.
Delete, delete, delete
You’re in charge here; this is your playground. You are in no way obliged to publish every comment you get, and you can delete anything that doesn’t fit in with the vibe you’re trying to cultivate. Free speech certainly has its place, but your blog isn’t
a public or government-owned property. If detractors want to speak freely, they can darn well set up blogs of their own.
Don’t fear the banhammer
The banhammer is your privilege as a blog owner; in most CMSes, you can permanently ban any commenter who you feel is dragging down the tone of the conversation with verbal abuse, threats, or profanity (if that’s not okay on your blog).
Take a deep breath
If you get a particularly vitriolic comment that just sets your teeth on edge, walk away from your computer (or shut down your smartphone) and go blow off some steam before responding (or not responding, or just deleting the comment altogether). Some low-blow comments will go straight for your emotional jugular. In those moments, you might need a mantra; I have a few of my own! ‘These people don’t pay my bills’ is a perspective-saving statement that you can use to remind yourself why you blog and reinforce the fact that a bad comment has no real-world impact on you.
Negative isn’t always nasty
Some folks will leave comments that they didn’t like your work or they didn’t understand your story or they hate the lens you’re using, and so on. Don’t let it get to you emotionally, and assume that the commenter meant well. If you start by giving them the benefit of the doubt, you can decide for yourself whether the criticism does, in fact, have any merit; but if it was made without malice, there’s no need to get upset.
Sometimes, an overly negative commenter is so off-base that their words go from offensive to just plain bizarre, outlandish, and ludicrous. Feel free to shake your head and chuckle. One seasoned pro in the blogosphere tells me he likes to reply to these commenters with three simple words: ‘You fascinate me.’ It’s a little wink-wink that lets other commenters know you’re in on the joke and don’t take the negativity to heart.
Just remember: Your commenters, positive and negative alike, don’t really know you. Any comments they leave are more a reflection on them than on you. Dark people leave dark comments, and we have to pity them for not having better things to do with their lives.
Finally, there might sometimes be posts that stir up strong reactions or controversies in the community. Likewise, if you do any personal blogging, you might also find yourself delving into some very tender territory. In most blogging software, you can turn comments on and off for an individual post, and in some circumstances it might be worth flipping the switch into no-comment mode, especially if you feel that you’ve said all you have to say and you don’t particularly need or want feedback from others.
This might strike some of your readers as a high-handed way of avoiding criticism, but look at all the facts: You took the time and effort to set up a blog, do all your photography, and craft a well-thought-out blog post on a perhaps sensitive subject. It’s your work, and no one is entitled to any part of it. If you don’t feel like subjecting yourself to commentary—positive or negative—you can simply close the comments section.
In these instances, running a brief disclaimer at the bottom of the post, where the comments section would normally be found is a good idea. You might want to write something along the lines of:
Comments are closed for this post. You are encouraged to disagree, debate, or expand the conversation on your own blog; you will be linked to via trackbacks and pingbacks.
It’s a polite but firm way of telling your readers that while you appreciate them, this particular post is a one-way talk or speech or demonstration rather than a roundtable discussion.
Blogging for Photographers by Jolie O’Dell tells you everything that you need to know about establishing your own photo-blogging website, from the basics of how to get your photos from your camera to the Internet, and looking lovely, to how you can make money from your site.
Blogging for Photographers
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