As readership on your site or blog grows, you'll have to figure out a strategy for dealing with unproductive comments.
There are 3 categories of "unproductive":
- Straightforward spam. This is the stuff you automatically delete, or preferably filter out using a plug-in like Akismet.
- Trolls. These are people who say inflammatory or off-topic things, usually meant to get an emotional rise out of you or your community. It would be akin to walking into a Billy Joel chat room, and saying Billy Joel is the worst musician on earth. How do you handle? It's usually preferable to block those people from commenting again, or to delete such comments.
- Self-promoters. These are commenters who don't contribute to the conversation, but say something like "Great post!" while leaving links back to their own blog or site. Sometimes this practice can feel like spam if it happens often enough.
Aside from unproductive comments, you'll also have to deal with critical comments. (I don't advise deleting critical comments unless they cross the line into flame wars.)
Rather than take offense when some disagrees, or always argue why you're right, view criticisms as an opportunity to learn something, or to have conversation on your site—which can attract more readers over time, if the conversations are meaningful and respectful.
Leaving meaningful comments
As I discussed last week, leaving meaningful comments on others' blogs or sites is a good way to attract attention to your own site, so it's helpful to be consistent in your approach and tone. Here are a few suggestions:
- Don't be a drive-by shooter. This is where you post a quick criticism like, "I don't agree; this isn't my experience." This doesn't really engage in a conversation or offer something meaningful to other readers or commenters. It IS helpful to offer an alternative viewpoint, so take the time to elaborate on it.
- Put your comments in context. Most people won't know who you are when you're commenting. So it's helpful to relate something about your background, experience, or POV on issues.
- To really impress, offer a targeted resource. Some of the best comments I've ever received pointed me to a very specific blog post or resource that I hadn't seen before.
- Ask questions. If you didn't understand something that was discussed, there's a good chance someone else didn't understand either. So bring it up in the comments. Get clarification. Most people love the chance to elaborate, or they can address the question in a new blog post.
- When views differ, look for common ground. To maintain goodwill wherever you go, it's helpful to look for areas where you agree with a person. While we can all say (in theory) that we're open to disagreement and criticisms, it still helps immensely to figure out where thoughts and beliefs align.
So … I welcome your meaningful comments on comments!