Author engagement reduces trolling
One of the conundrums faced by news sites and popular blogs is how to best moderate their comments sections.
On the one hand, they want readers to engage with their content and a rigorous debate in the comments stream is a good indication that they’ve managed to achieve just that.
But abusive posts, either from passionate people getting carried away or from more sinister and sometimes very dangerous serial internet trolls, present a real problem for website owners.
As well as their responsibilities to their readers, websites and blogs can sometimes face legal action over posts in their comment sections.
With more and more brands investing in content creation this is no longer just a problem for news providers. It could be an issue for any organisation with a popular blog.
Some brands opt to shut down the comments function entirely, but others that want to see their posts start a conversation will need to find alternative strategies.
Recent research from the US suggests one solution may be to encourage authors to get involved when readers comment on their articles.
A team of researchers looked at 70 political articles and 2,403 comments posted on a news site over a period of five months and assessed the impact of three approaches: engagement from a well-known journalist; engagement from an anonymous “web team”; and no engagement.
The results of the study, published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, revealed that when journalists actively engaged, comments were more likely to by civil and relevant with arguments supported by evidence.
Brands looking for ways to handle negative comments on their blogs or on social media might have more success if they put a human face on their responses.
And it’s worth giving serious consideration because, when it’s handled well, negative feedback can sometimes provide good opportunities to create positive stories. They can help you improve your service or fix a problem with a product; and they give you a chance to show that you care and that you’re listening.