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Missing out on comments

I just came across a great blog post and wrote a comment in response. Part of the process was answering a security question to avoid spam which is fine.

The questions was “what is one plus three?” It wasn’t a challenge to find the answer but I did wonder if I should write ‘four’ or ‘4’. Given the question used words, I did too.

Unfortunately, the comment form just disappeared with the message “You got the spam message wrong” in its place. Not only was my beautifully crafted response gone forever, I wasn’t given the opportunity to write a replacement comment – and that blog misses out on another comment.

If there is any ambiguity about a compulsory question, there must be a second chance at answering it. Better yet would be clarity about the expected answer – for instance, it could have asked “what is one plus three? (answer in digits)” or “Give the number (in digits) equal to one plus three”.

A simple error yes but the consequences are that they missed getting a comment – How many comments do they miss each week because of this spam question? – and they have lost credibility as a site that values clarity (sorry to say it was a content writing service site, too).

What sort of spam protection do you hate or love?

Correcting spelling, yes or no?

I have just been asked if it is rude to correct the spelling of comments added to your blog. An interesting question!

Like so many things, there is no clear answer about what is the ‘right thing’ to do.

I don’t think it is a valuable use of time to check every incoming comment for correct spelling and grammar, but really obvious errors are a bit different. One on hand, it is the person making the comments who will be seen to have bad spelling, not you, so it won’t affect your professional standing.

On the other hand, if the error annoys you or will detract from the message, it is very tempting to fix the error yourself.

If the comment is mostly well written and spelt correctly, I would be inclined to correct any typos or spelling errors. The person who wrote it probably would prefer to appear competent and may be kicking themselves for the error anyway!

If the comment is full of spelling mistakes that aren’t just typos, it is trickier. My instinct is to not have bad English in my blog, even bits not written by me! Someone who can’t spell well may not even notice you correcting their work, and others wouldn’t care either way – but I suspect some people would be offended to find you had corrected their words, especially if the errors were consistent (I’m particularly thinking of people who use SMS shorthand instead of proper spelling.)

Unless you know the person making the spelling mistakes and want to help them and/or know they would appreciate it, I would avoid changing their spelling. It’s harsh, but if they don’t care enough to get things right, it is their reputation they are damaging, not yours.

Of course, your response to their comment needs to be spelt perfectly and sometimes may be able to serve as a lesson in correct spelling!

Answering negative comments

Someone has posted something negative on your blog. You’ve decided to keep their comment live on the blog, so now you need to answer the comment with one of your own.

You could:

  • be negative or even abusive back
  • ignore the negative aspects of their comment
  • be upset and cry ‘unfair’
  • be extremely humble and apologetic
  • agree to disagree
  • agree with them in parts
  • agree with them and indicate how you will deal with the issue

So which is the best option?

Well, attacking back isn’t a good idea – it may help you feel better immediately, but it is unprofessional and will be remembered more than the original comment. It also doesn’t solve anything.

Ignoring the negative bits. If the comment is mostly ok and just has some negative bit, you may be able to just answer the main part of the comment and get away with it. But ignoring the negative part looks like you are avoiding it, doesn’t make the commenter feel heard, doesn’t help your business grow and doesn’t stop people believing the negative comment.

You may well feel upset by something in a comment, but posting in that way doesn’t look professional or constructive.

Humble is good and an apology where warranted is a must, but don’t go overboard with it. Being too apologetic and humble removes your credibility and is unlikely to earn you more clients. A simple “I’m sorry you feel that way,” “Sorry – I made a mistake” or “I think I mucked that up – let me try again” is usually enough.

If the comment is just negative because they disagree with you – that’s great! It is an opportunity for discussion (and isn’t that what a blog is for?) and for you to learn. You may never agree with the comment, but reading it and considering it may give you a new perspective.

A response that acknowledges the others person’s opinion shows respect and an open mind – it doesn’t mean you have to lie and agree with everything they write, just be polite and find a positive aspect to their opinion. You can respond with comments such as

  • “I can see where you are coming from but I still like my logo”
  • “That’s an interesting idea. Personally, I don’t like pumpkin but it would add great colour to the dish”
  • “I prefer brand X but it’s good to hear how it has worked for other people”
  • “You are probably right about the rules, but I still think this is safer”
  • “Mary thinks long domain names are great, I prefer short ones – what do you think?”
  • “I agree that Christmas preparations can start in July but I don’t like decorations in shops in October”
  • “I had never thought about it like that before.”
  • “I think you’re right – that article is too long. But it would be incomplete if I cut out the examples”

If the negative comment is actually constructive feedback, the best thing you can do is act on it. You may give an initial response in your blog thanking them for their feedback and noting that you are looking into the issue – and don’t forget to come back and post about the fix once it is in place. This is a powerful process. You will show you are listening to your readers/clients, you respect their opinions and you will admit mistakes in order to improve your service/products. The person making the comment will appreciate being heard and may turn into a supporter; other readers will admire and remember your willingness to change.

So the best option to respond to a negative comment partially depends on the nature of the comment. But always respond with respect in a polite way and acknowledge their point of view. Agree, disagree or make amends as the situation calls for.

Consider negative comments as a way of showing your professionalism and building true relationships with your blog readers and clients, and the comments won’t seem so difficult or painful anymore.

Negative comments and controversary

I received an email today which discussed how he treated a particular negative comment on his blog.

The comment he received was apparently very critical, rude and insulting – effectively calling him dishonest and claiming he owed the commentor something.

Obviously, the blog owner could have deleted the message and been done with it or left it and replied to it. However, he decided to leave it and not comment on it straight away. A few more negative comments were added to the discussion – other people agreeing with the first commentor. But then, some of the blog owner’s loyal supporters jumped in – they defended the blog owner and strongly criticised the people making negative comments.

The blog owner had expected this and he took is as a chance for an active discussion, a controversy that increased traffic to his blog and some independant highlighting of his good points.

It was effective in that he had a discussion and it would have helped his blog and site rankings. Personally, I’m not sure I would have followed suit.

For one thing, some very negative comments were on his blog and they were first – some people may never read long enough to reach the positive comments. As a potential client, I wouldn’t be impressed by a blog discussion like that for two reasons – 1. why didn’t the blog owner make any response to his complainers and 2. I was probably reading the blog to learn something not hear about the person behind the blog.

I also didn’t like the fact that he was happy to have his supporters attack and flame his detractors. I prefer to not have any defamatory or hurtful comments in my professional dealings (blog, discussions, in person, whatever) so I would not allow a situation to build if I expected that outcome. It just doesn’t some across as professional to me.

I will write about how to deal with negative comments separately, but what do you think – is leaving a negative comment like that on your blog to spark a discussion a good thing or not?