A few years after the dawn of the internet in the mid-nineties, vision for the world wide web shifted to the “2.0” version, which involved encouraging audience interaction, viewed as significant progress by marketers and communications experts.
Comment sections, message boards, chat and community discussion started off with great energy and excitement as we began to “engage” our audience. What better way to get them all to like us? After all, if they really got to know us, they would certainly love us and spend a lot more time at our site.
And just about everyone who opened up their website to free and easy access to interaction learned the same lesson:
Some people can be downright unpleasant.
Some were willing to express opinions out of ignorance and others willing to smack someone else down with a profanity-laced personal attack if they disagreed with anything.
We needed to pay someone to watch the interaction and delete offensive posts. Seemingly in an instant, audience engagement lost some of its luster.
Fast forward 15-20 years and maybe we have lowered our expectations for how some will respond to a blog or social media post. But it can still be a rude awakening when you find out how many people (even Christians) are guided more by the US Constitution’s first amendment affirmation of free speech than the first chapter of the New Testament book of James.
Audience interaction is not all it is cracked up to be. But it is what it is.
Every book needs an editor and every online comment section needs one as well.
This agency blog has a very engaged group of readers who respond appropriately, are supportive and even add to the conversation in constructive ways. That’s the way it is supposed to work and we appreciate it deeply.
In your blogging and social media, including a comment section may or may not be in your best interest. What was thought of as some sort of communication “panacea” back in the 90’s has for some become an ugly reminder of the fallen-ness of humankind.
Even online reviews for books can become a forum for diatribes or personal vendettas. The internet has become much more like the busiest time at the DMV rather than a quiet invitation-only party for friends. In other words, you never truly know what will happen next.
When you open the doors and make it free and easy to enter, you are asking for it, whatever “it” is.
I have read some very well written articles or blogs online and when I scroll down to the comment sections, it looks like it should be labeled, “If you are mad at the world, can’t take it any more and don’t know what you are talking about, comment here.”
And that doesn’t even count the spam messages about earning extra money working from home and any number of others placed by companies who pay someone to wander around and post advertising on comment sections in an attempt to lure people to their business.
Honestly, you don’t need that on your blog or website. Audience interaction is great, until it isn’t.
Make it easy and clear how readers can contact you through email or a contact form and you might be able to eliminate the comment section. It won’t hurt a bit.