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.
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.
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.