On January 20th, two Jibe employees stepped across the threshold of the Grand America Hotel (downtown Salt Lake City) and into a world entirely submerged in design blogging. Each post in the ALT series will be like messages in a bottle, sent during our team’s sojourn in that magical world and now washing up on the sandy shores of our own blog.
Today’s message in a bottle was inspired by Social Media Ethics & Etiquette, presented by Emily Newman, Grace Bonney, and Joy Cho. Thanks again to these fine professionals for such an inspiring session.
When it comes to sizing up your online community, comments are a first and primary indicator of how well you’re reaching out. If you’re writing just to hear yourself think, then you can expect crickets chirping to be the most common (and appropriate) response. If, on the other hand, you’re actually interested in building a community of similarly-minded folks, then you should expect comments to increase with time. So here’s a few ideas on how to approach comments:
- Don’t be the used-car salesman: If you are building a community, then you’ve probably already realized how valuable it is to reach out and comment on others’ blogs. Doing so not only establishes your expertise in a certain arena, but more importantly proves that you’re a staple in the community; someone people can count on. So when you comment, be sure not to avoid the hard sell. Would you go to a cocktail party and preface “Buy my stuff” with any comment you made: “Buy my stuff and pass me the cocktail wieners please… Buy my stuff and your dress looks phenomenal, is that vintage suede?” Nobody likes to hang around a pushy salesperson, so don’t be one online… or off.
- Avoid the digital law of Moses: An eye-for-an-eye mentality never got anyone anything fast, except perhaps an eye patch. With an increase in comments on your own blog, you’ll undoubtedly come across one or two “Negative Nancys.” The key is to separate the comment for yourself and realize, as an enthusiast in your field, it’s not your job to please everyone. Your job is to write about what inspires you and your community, and let the naysayers go it alone. And as hard as it seems, don’t reach for mud the minute someone starts throwing it at you – it might make you feel vindicated temporarily, but you’re the one left to clean up your digital domain once all is said and done.
That being said, there are instances where, infallible as you might seem, you will write something that ruffles the feathers of someone in your community. When you get criticism from a regular, don’t hesitate to reach out immediately with an email. Perhaps they misunderstood; perhaps you were on pain medication while writing… No matter the reason, a formal apology via email will go a long way.
- Protect your community: Remember all that talk just now about “walking away” and “being the better person?” Well, take it with a grain of salt when it comes to your authors or any other subject you profile on your blog. If someone negs on you for what you think, that’s one thing (you’re the owner, after all). But as soon as someone starts ripping on little Lucy, a middle-aged mid-western mom that you’ve invited to participate with a guest post, you might want to look for a good place to take off your gloves. Defending when needed will demonstrate to your community what standards they can expect in case they ever want to chirp in with some ideas of their own.
- Promote free speech: America is one of the greatest nations in the world because you can express how you feel about pretty much anything. Your blog should reflect a similar atmosphere. In other words, don’t hide or delete negative comments if they have a place in your dialogue. You don’t want to give away your front row to the Negative Nancy’s, but you also want to encourage people to say what they feel. If they feel comfortable enough to engage in an honest dialogue with you and your community, then you should consider your blog a success.
That’s more than enough for today, but expect more messages in the coming days/weeks. In the spirit of encouraging free speech, let us know how you felt about this post and we’ll try and make the next one even better.