Guest post by Stephen Jeske
Any established business blog with a sufficient readership will eventually encounter negative comments.
In an odd way, it’s an indicator of success. It means that someone is actually listening.
The commenter may not agree with your viewpoint, and that provides you with an incredible opportunity, provided you take advantage.
Verify Your Blog Settings
What you do with your blog is your own business. Unlike social media, it’s your game and your rules—everyone else has to abide. So make sure that you’ve set your blog to always moderate comments. That way, you get to review them before they get published. You’re going to want to keep tabs on the conversation anyway, so do this ahead of time to avoid any potential problems.
Reconsider Allowing Comments
Before the rise of social media, blog comments were considered crucial in developing an audience.
However, the consensus has begun to change, with high-profile bloggers like Seth Godin turning off blog commenting and bringing the conversation over to social media.
It’s worth considering, especially when you take into account that comments can affect a post’s search engine ranking in a negative way. Too many comments, good or bad, can hijack a post and destroy any on-page keyword optimization.
Create Comment Posting Guidelines
If you’re going to allow comments, you want to create an environment that encourages productive discussion. Create a guidelines page and post a link to it. That way, your readers understand what is expected. Make it simple and easy to read—for example, “no foul language or personal attacks”—and avoid too much legalese. Readers need to be aware that posting comments to your blog is a privilege and not a right.
Delete When Necessary
It’s your blog and it’s your choice. Just because someone has posted a comment does not mean it has to be published. You may have legitimate reasons for not approving a comment, such as inappropriate language. That’s why it’s good to have a set of commenting guidelines that you consistently follow. You can always contact the poster, explaining your reason for not publishing his or her comment.
Move the Conversation Offline
Occasionally, situations can be resolved better through email or a phone call. In those cases, it can be better to move the conversation off your blog. If the comment is worth publishing, then do so and add in your invitation to contact you by email; otherwise, just contact the commenter directly.
Don’t Take it Personally
Be professional and respectful at all times. There’s always someone in every crowd that wants everyone else to share in their misery. So don’t go down that road. Sometimes, the written word comes cross differently than when expressed in person, and you may be reading too much into the comment. Also, it’s easier for people to say things online that they normally wouldn’t say out loud. The commenter may be saying far more than they actually mean.
Stick to the Facts
Negative comments, especially really nasty ones, are often long on emotion and short on facts. Make sure your response sticks to the facts, and do not counteract with emotion. Politely correct the commenter if their facts are wrong, and provide them with an opportunity to save face. Negative comments are frequently the result of a poster having incorrect information.
They’re more likely to come around to your side of thinking if you provide them with an opportunity. But if you get their back up against a wall, it doesn’t matter what facts you have—they’re unlikely to change opinion.
Replying as fast as possible and with an intelligent response shows your readers that you care. In this case, actions speak louder than words.However, you need both a quick and coherent response; otherwise, you will fail in establishing your commitment. It’s a good idea to include a response time in your comment posting guidelines so that you set an appropriate expectation.
Treat negative blog comments like any other comments and maintain a positive and genuine attitude.
A lot of business pundits advise not use phrases like “I’m sorry” and instead use “I understand,” or a similar phrase.
Don’t admit you’ve done something wrong, but offer to solve their problem, since that’s usually all people want. Remember to be sincere, and avoid any formulaic response.
See it as an Opportunity, Not a Problem
Many times, a customer will do business with the competition instead of taking time to express their dissatisfaction. A negative comment is an opportunity to engage with your audience, help resolve their situation, and create a happy customer. So seize the opportunity for what it really is.
While some people think that any comment is better none, other’s think that some comments can damage a company’s reputation. While you can’t manage what others say about your company, you can always control your response. A good response goes far in improving an organization’s standing.
About the author:
Stephen Jeske is an avid outdoor enthusiast with a passion for coffee. He frequently writes about personal branding, careers, and the best practice for managing one’s business reputation.