Internship Insider: Avoid these mistakes in the Comments section
Here are some pitfalls to avoid (and strategies to implement) when it comes to properly using your Comments section.
I’ll be the first to admit my own shortcomings here; this is one of those topics that EVERYONE can get better at in some way. I’m eager to hear whatever advice/wisdom you’d like to offer on this as well!
1. Not responding to any comments
You wrote an article because you wanted it to be read. Now that it has been, your job is not over with.
Regardless of what they wrote, a commenter took the time to give you feedback. The least you can do is show them that you care about your work and your readers.
If you don’t care enough to even say, “Thanks for your feedback,” how can the reader be confident that you cared about the article in the first place? If you don’t care, why should they?
2. Only responding to positive comments
Your article is meant for public consumption, and that audience is incredibly diverse when it comes to opinions.
Getting some negative feedback is not a bad thing. It means you took a strong enough stance to spark a conversation. In fact, I think it’s far worse to get NO comments than it is to get some bad ones.
However, if you don’t defend your article, then it must be indefensible. Your silence indicates the detractor was right and you were too chicken or lazy to do anything about it.
Those who might have agreed with you only see a white flag of surrender instead, and the point you were trying to make dies on the spot.
Since you believed in your premise enough to write about it, defend it in the Comments section. Explaining your reasoning not only might win a few skeptics, it forces you to evaluate your own logic.
When somebody else makes a good point, be sure to salute them for it. It’s 100 percent OK to be wrong sometimes.
3. Fight fire with fire
In the old days, you might take a different way home at night to avoid being pelted with rotten fruit by your detractors. Now? An online writer works from a completely exposed location over the troll bridge.
Today’s negative feedback is immediate, oftentimes illogical and frequently personal. The temptation to duck down, hide behind your keyboard and retaliate with a volley of your own is understandable.
Don’t do it.
No matter how ridiculous a commenter is being, if you fly off the handle in return, your readers will see that the writer is just as much of an irrational jerk as the idiot commenter.
An over-the-top rebuttal will likely just reinforce the perception that you don’t really know what you’re talking about.
I’ve always found that taking an attack and turning it on myself is disarming. Even if it’s simply to illustrate the ridiculousness of the comment, a little self-deprecation goes a long ways. Have fun with the moment, even if you’re the only one smiling.
Respectfully make your point, thank them for reading and tell them you can’t wait to hear from them again (even if it is with your tongue firmly in cheek). If they simply want to lambaste some more, let them go. At least you said your part.
(NOTE: If receiving overwhelmingly negative criticism from your readers, then you might want to figure out whether/why they have a good point.)
Taking the high road EVERY time in the Comments section isn’t just about keeping the few dozen readers who left something for you. It’s about the thousands who are silently reading and watching what you do next.
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Joel C. Cordes is Bleacher Report’s Sports Writing Internship Program Feedback Editor. Along with fellow editor Greg Pearl, he develops B/R interns by providing feedback and mentoring, the highlights of which are shared with the B/R Blog.