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Honesty in your blog comments

Once you start blogging you will start getting comments. Unfortunately, a large proportion of them will probably be spam, but the real comments are great.

What about the real but not-so-great comments you may get?

As I wrote a few years ago (back in December 2007 to be precise – old content that still rings true!), I think you have five choices about how to act on negative comments.

Spam and outright abuse I think should be deleted and forgotten.

Comments that just disagree with you or  realistic or even constructive  criticisms are a different story.

Keeping negative comments in your blog seems honest to me – you’re not censoring and are being transparent.

It may be confronting to leave negative comments live, but it gives you a chance to be human and show that you are open to feedback – especially if you show that you have learnt from it.

Have you ever left negative comments in your blog? What response have you got from doing so?

Would you use negative comments to stir a controversy or a discussion?

An interesting campaign by comments

Like most bloggers, I get spam comments – boring and annoying but that’s the way it is. Luckily, I have plugins so don’t often see all the spam that comes in.

Occasionally I do glance through what has been filtered as spam to check things are on track. Recently, a found a number of comments in the spam filter that were a bit different.

Using comments to get a message spreadannouncing through blog comments

Leaving comments in a blog can of course be one way to share your message, and attract traffic back to your site to really explain what is important to you.

But this is the first time I have seen someone set up bulk comments (and I assume it was automated so probably has been sent to many blogs) in order to make their point of view heard.

This isn’t a commercial message, either (although their site could be monetised of course) so it really stood out to me.

Imagine if do-it-in-a-dress, World Vision, Kiva, Greenpeace or any other charity or community group used this tactic – see why I thought this was unusual?

Sharing negative messages

The comments I noticed were criticisms of a writing site

The commenter’s name was even entered as derogative terms against that service so they were definitely keen to ruin the company’s name.

I didn’t click on the link provided as I have no desire to read a diatribe against another service, plus I don’t trust links in spammy comments!

Personally, I have not looked at the named site but I have heard of it. I know some people have found it useful for finding writing projects while the details I have heard concern me and others (the pay rate is apparently ridiculously low so clients can’t assume they  are getting quality results and it is not respecting the writers’ time and effort).

I don’t like what I know about that service and similar ones but I have never heard they are dishonest about the pay rates so each to their own.

I agree that the uninformed may be influenced by such sites to work for well under reasonable pay rates because they don’t know any different. It is fair to let new writer’s understand the industry.

It isn’t right to spam the internet with claims of scam and fraud about another company.

So what’s the middle ground?

How can you share a warning with people without crossing legal boundaries and without damaging your own reputation?

Negative feedback in your newsletter?

If you write a newsletter, or even a blog or magazine, and you include a feedback or testimonials section, do you censor them? You have more control over newsletter content and testimonials than over comments posted in your blog, but how do you best use that control?

If you get a lot of feedback, then it is likely you will only add some of it to your newsletter each time or it would be overwhelming for your readers.

However, if you generally add all feedback into your newsletter or present it in your blog, what do you do with negative feedback?

Negative feedback responses

feedback may be negative

Choosing how to deal with negative feedback

If the feedback is inappropriate, nasty or irrelevant (e.g. feedback from someone who isn’t even a customer or newsletter subscriber), delete it and forget it.

On the other hand, if it is constructive criticism (or at least true information, even if it isn’t presented constructively!) include it in your newsletter with your response – making sure your response shows how you are improving your service/product.

Including and responding to negative feedback (assuming it isn’t the majority of the feedback you publish!) builds trust in your readers as you are being honest – they will trust the positive feedback more, too. It also gives a balanced view to your newsletter.

You may find that the negative comments you include will be small issues that people can happily accept, so you can gain the above advantages without damaging your name at all.

Regardless of the content of the feedback, remember to thank people in your newsletter to encourage further comments and feedback – the more feedback you get, the more opportunity you have for improvement in your business. Feedback can also build a feeling of community and belonging amongst your readers.

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?

Positive or negative?

As much as I’d prefer to ignore the election campaign, it is here and I have noticed numerous ads around. And I am surprised (as I am at every election, lol!) as how negative much of the campaigning is.

In business and as a writer, I would never criticise a competitor (mine or for a client) to try to win sales. I believe it is much better to show my strengths and abilities instead of showing how good I am at complaining about others – this builds trust in my skills obviously, and lets clients know if I offer a service they need.

Spouting negatives about competitors surely makes me look insecure or bitter or incompetent (because I don’t have enough positives to talk about), or all of them!

Politicians never seem to learn this simple business principle – and it makes me think of politicians as children!

So, don’t copy the politicians, and use positives in your writing!

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