How to Aggravate a Social Media Expert in 40 Words or Less

The title could also have been “Blog Posts: Comment Dos and Don’ts,” but that somehow doesn’t get across the situation I found myself in earlier this week.

Commenting on a blog post is a great way to connect with other social media professionals, colleagues, clients and customers.

Generally, the feedback takes the form of an agreement, suggestion or addition, or a question. Troll-like behavior is never welcome. Negative or snarky blog post comments completely spoil social media’s spirit of community and derail the conversation. Nothing good comes from them. Unless maybe if you write a blog post confessing to a recent blunder with the hope of helping other people by having a laugh at yourself. And if by sharing your experience, you end up breaking a 3-month dry spell of writer’s block on your own blog.

Here’s my story, along with six tips on what to consider when commenting on blog posts.

Are you a social media tool bag? An effective call to action generates responses from blog readers.

Blog posts that include an effective call to action encourage readers to respond. Ideally, the blog post comments are a value-add that contribute to vs. derail discussion. No one appreciates a social media tool bag or blog troll.

 

Blog Post Comments Tip #1: Put more thought into your comments

As a social media consultant, I subscribe to different blog feeds and also regularly check my @alisoncummings Twitter lists for interesting news or blog posts. I try to walk the talk I tell my clients, so I will also leave comments to keep an active social media profile and also develop relationships with other professionals and potential clients.

This particular blog post had the provocative title “25 Signs You are a Social Media Tool Bag.” Hey, nobody wants to be a tool bag, especially a social media tool bag! I had to check this out. Sure enough, I found myself chuckling along with the key points of the article, most of which started with “You are a [fill in the blank.]”

I scanned the comments and decided to contribute, quickly typing in the first thought that came to my head. Then I hit publish. And went back to work.

 

Blog Post Comments Tip #2: Make sure your intention is clear

Fast-forward to a notification in my e-mail inbox from the author of the blog post, a well-known, highly regarded social media expert. As soon as I read her response to my comment, my heart sank. She was offended, the exact opposite of what I intended.

What had I said that upset her so much?

As I re-read what I’d written, I immediately saw my comment from her point of view, and I understood why she felt personally attacked.

An example of how a well-meaning comment can be misunderstood

Out of context, the comment I left on this blog, based on the “Call to Action” in the image above, appears really negative. No matter my intent, this social media professional understandably mistook the meaning. “Pas fort,” as they would say here in Quebec.

 

Blog Post Comments Tip #3: Be careful about ambiguity

A word of caution about ambiguity: It can be a powder keg.

What I thought was a straight-forward response clearly wasn’t. A bit more context would have avoided misinterpretation.

Blogs aren’t Twitter. There’s no 140-character limit. Of course, I’m not suggesting a blog post comment become a mini-essay. But in my case, I was too brief in my response to make my intention 100% clear.

 

Blog Post Comments Tip #4: “You” can be dangerous

My contribution to the post’s effective “call to action” was to share what behaviors “Drive you crazy?”

Following the style of several points made in the post, my comment started with “You.”

You take yourself too seriously. Sometimes I sense this with the bloggers who have achieved the dubious ‘guru’ status.

Not such a good idea, I now realize. She thought my comment was directed at her. No wonder she felt personally attacked.

A better approach? Draft a response and sit on it. Take the time to step away and come back. It’s the advice shared time and time again by experienced writers. A fresh perspective often helps identify a potential oversight, improvement or typo.

 

Blog Post Comments Tip #5: When in Doubt, Leave It Out

Did I really need to leave this comment? No.

Was it an amazingly relevant, mind-blowing addition to the discussion? No.

Was adding a contribution on what drives me crazy about “social media tools” worth the risk of alienation and two people unnecessarily feeling bad? Definitely not.

 

Blog Post Comments Tip #6: Step up and make amends

Yes, I meant well. But the situation caused this other individual grief. After all, how fun is it to get a comment that makes you feel bad? Then having to responding back in your own defense.

I immediately replied back with the following (roughly as I didn’t copy what I wrote, and my comment is not yet live):

Oops? I can see how my shorthand could be misinterpreted. In answering your “call to action” question, I followed the “You …” style of the post. Truly no offense meant. Maybe this will inspire a new post for both of us! :)

 

Share your blog comment dos and don’ts

As it turns out, the title of my blog post could easily have been,”Six Tips to Ensure That When You Comment on Social Media Tool Bags, You Aren’t Mistaken For One Yourself.” ;)

Have you had similar experiences, either as the writer of a blog post or as a reader leaving a comment? Additional tips or stories to share? Don’t leaving me hanging, as I would really appreciate your contribution.

About Alison Cummings

Business Writing, Copywriting, Content Marketing.
Communications + Marketing + Technical Expertise.

Comments

  1. First off, I am so glad you wrote a post expecting comments. I’ve found that every time I eliminate reading news sites, blogs, feeds, accounts that don’t have conversations, I end up getting a richer understanding of the topics I follow.

    I teach “If you have time to read it, you have time for a comment”.. and frankly, I started doing that when I believed the SEO value was the most important reason. Trying to practice that myself, I’d sometime read an article and find myself stuck on what to say.

    Then I changed my own policy to PEOPLE above content. Twitter has allowed me to edit my thoughts down to short phrases and engage many more people than I ever thought possible.. but blogs, Facebook, phone and Skype conversations and more face to face has been better than ever as I use automation to do the mundane and spend give people the real me.

    Recently, I set aside time each day to post comments. I started honing my list of reading down further and find that I’m running into friends, building on casual relationships and meeting some awesome new people.. and taking less time than I was using to to breeze through my RSS reader for some good things to tweet.

    • Hi Warren,

      First off, I’m so glad you aren’t spam and are actually a person taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment!

      I teach “If you have time to read it, you have time for a comment”.

      That’s a great standard to uphold. I agree. I have really benefited from information and insights people share in comments, and feel like I need to “pay it forward.”

      Funny, that having a blog comment misinterpreted by a well-known social media blogger/marketer is what cured my writer’s block.

      Along with a breakthrough, I enjoyed a nice tall glass of lemonade. ;)

  2. Hi, Allison…
    Good points you make here!
    … and they apply across the communication spectrum!
    I’ve often thought of myself as a “thread-killer” – I’d add to a lively on-going conversation (whether on a forum. e-list or blog post) and, all-of-a-sudden, nobody had anything else to add! Whimper!
    Made me feel like hiding in the corner for a month.
    (Sometimes, I was *too detailed* about what I meant, but I’ve seen the damage that can come of “Read. Steam. Type. Post.” and it can be really ugly.)
    I hope this doesn’t P-O anybody, here! :) We’re all looking to Learn, right?

    • Hi Karen,

      You’ve made my day! Thanks for your feedback and for sharing your experience.

      This was actually not hard to write, bit harder to post. Ach, it’s “live!” ;)

      I know what you mean about negative backlash, and it *is* hard to talk yourself out of that corner and get the courage to jump back into the conversation stream again. Even if you really were doing a great thing by offering input. I bet there are people that appreciated the detail you included. Covering all the bases can help someone who may not have the time to scroll through a large number of comments. That sometimes happens for me and I am so grateful, because I find what I need without more searching/researching. To Warren’s point below, I just need to be better about sharing my thanks, so people like you know how much you help improve my understanding.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to share, and I hope to hear from you in the future on other posts that resonate with you.

      • Thanks for the quick reply, too, Alison!
        What was kicking me to my mental corner was my *assumption* of negative backwash, simply because nobody responded! All the bad feelings were originating in my own head! I made it all up – and went directly to the *worst case*. Yikes.

        • Ahhh, I’ve done that, too! You’re contributing to a conversation, but where does that comment go – out in that big Internet void? Hellloooo, anybody there? …

          I’ve also been on the other side – reading a very complete comment and thinking – ‘Wow, she’s said it perfectly, I don’t really know what I can add. Great contribution.’

          But do I always actually add that? Noooo. So, I’ve made a commitment to take the time to share my appreciation, even if it’s something simple like “Thank you for contributing,” as I don’t want to lose out on the opportunity to learn and exchange with people like you.

          • I’d much prefer to imagine +they’re+ saying ‘Wow, she’s said it perfectly, I don’t really know what I can add. Great contribution.’ But that’s sure not the direction my brain goes first! :( How to change that? I wonder…

  3. I just found this post (and blog) though the Ask Amy column. It is SO easy to be misunderstood online. Good for you for turning into a positive learning experience. Most likely Pam was only momentarily annoyed and once she read your response she chuckled. At least this is the way I see it ;-).