When It’s Okay to Read the Comments

Building a positive environment online can lead to better dialogue.

A sounding board, an echo chamber, an audience, a support group. Depending on who you are and how you communicate, you may define social media platforms differently.

You may see social media as a positive place. You love to check in on Swarm to share the great service you received at a new restaurant. You rely on your favorite blogger for advice on parenting. You enjoy catching up with former classmates in a private Facebook group.

Or you may see it as a not-so-positive place. You fear pulling up your Facebook newsfeed and seeing your relatives in a dispute about a news article. You are annoyed to discover your business has received a harsh review on Yelp. You don’t understand how strangers can get so meanspirited over a selfie.

How can you focus on the positive when there’s so much noise?

Unfortunately, there will always be trolls. There’s no magic spell to make everyone get along. That said, an effective social media policy, level-headed thinking, and dash of positivity can help make the comments a safe zone.

If you are the administrator for a Facebook group, a business owner on Yelp, or operator of a blog (among other roles), you need to know how to navigate heated situations.

Set the Rules

Starting with a clear social media policy—and posting it where your community can find and understand it—is the first step to success.

Think of this as your “please do” and “please don’t” list to guests you invite into your social media circles. It creates a level playing field. That way, your audience knows what kind of behavior is acceptable. It also empowers your followers to engage with you by saying, “This is who we are and this is how we hope you’ll be part of our community online.”

Don’t follow the list? You’ll be asked to leave.

Lead by Example

We also know that optimism is infectious (like its pesky twin, pessimism). You set yourself up for successful conversations when you lead with positivity and honesty.

If you don’t want your online space to be a negative place, don’t engage in negative conversation yourself. Use your platform to celebrate wins, congratulate peers, and build connections. Share links to helpful articles, notify followers of deals and discounts, and ask thoughtful questions.

Also, keep your profiles up to date so people know who to contact if there is a problem. If and when you receive bad feedback, hopefully that will go to you first. Either way, handle it with grace—a thoughtful reply to a negative email could change the tides for you.

Find the Silver Lining

At the end of the day, you may not win over everyone. But if you did all you could to lead with positivity, know the fault is not on you.

Is there a way to redirect the conversation? You may not agree with someone, but can you find a middle ground? You may have received a harsh review, but can you learn from it to make sure the mistake doesn’t repeat?

Social media moves fast. Take a breath before you respond. Tomorrow could bring a whole other set of challenges.


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