I’ve been studying brand responses to blog posts and comments for quite some time. However, a recent Facebook incident made me build my own personal comment policy for my online persona. No matter who you are, or your level of influence, you need to be prepared to respond when someone takes the conversation to a level that is uncomfortable, inappropriate and/or just does not belong in a conversation with you or your constituents.
For me, there are several phases or tiers of responses. I want to be able to discuss topics, give and hear differing opinions and welcome critique as a “gift.” I learned about 20 years ago, in an organizational behavior class, that both the ability to give and receive feedback is the best “gift” for professionals who are looking to learn and grow. However, there are times when you can see a conversation is moving in the wrong direction and just like a brand that’s responsible to answer questions, you can’t always just sit back and hope the commenter goes away.
A helpful tool that I came across is the Air Force Response Chart. If you haven’t studied this chart yet, you should definitely take a look. It walks a brand through a process of how it should respond based on the nature of the comment. Of course, this could be your personal brand. Here’s how I evaluate personal blog comments and messages that people direct toward me on social sites:
Comment or Blog Post Validity: Is the comment or the blog post valid, related to the conversation and present a different but legitimate perspective? If yes, accept the comment and thank the individual for the information. If not, you can explain any misinformation or how you feel the information may not apply to you or your community. This is considered healthy debate and you can at some point agree to disagree.
Level of Responsibility: Does the comment show that the commenter understands the needs of the community and is trying to be helpful or just purely representing his or her own interests? If there is a level of respect and responsibility, by all means accept the comment and engage in the dialogue. If there is no level of respect or responsibility, you can choose not to allow the comment to go through or you can let the comment pass.
Level of Respect: The comment reaches an unexpected heightened level of disrespect. Sometimes conversations can go in the wrong direction because of a misunderstanding or purely because the commenter does not have a level of respect for you or your community. If someone misunderstands something that you have said and gets upset, then you should immediately apologize and be accountable. If they have offended you and it was a misunderstanding you should work toward resolving the issue. If there is no respect involved and the comments are nasty, harassing, defamatory, etc., you have the right to not accept the comment on your blog.
The Commenter is a Troll: If the commenter is clearly a Troll or what’s known as a Rager (according the Air Force Response Chart) and has not contributed anything positive to the conversation, but is immediately bashing and degrading or ranting and sarcastic, this commenter does not deserve a response. I do not recommend blocking Trolls or Ragers on Twitter, as it’s always important to listen and monitor what they are saying. In more cases than not these Trolls and Ragers are put into their place by the community. Here’s where it helps to have a supportive community in place.
The Commenter is a Spammer by Nature: There are times that the commenter is not quite a Troll or Rager, yet has been able to become a friend and access your network on different social sites. Then, he or she decides to start spamming your wall. By all means, you have the option of using your privacy settings to block your wall, so this individual can’t make any comments that are uncomfortable and inappropriate and would be offensive to those who are conversing with you.
I’m all for healthy debate and there should always be mutual civility in our conversations. If we all had the same opinions, it wouldn’t be as interesting or educational. However, its important to be prepared and set up a system that tells you when its time to respond and thank someone for a different perspective and when it’s time not to respond at all or to change your privacy settings. In most cases, I find that people want to give opinions and to help one another. However, spamming and nasty and inappropriate comments just don’t belong in our conversations. When do you say enough is enough and it’s time to discontinue the conversation or block the person you thought was a friend?