Trips, Traps and Trolls: How to Keep your Blog Safe and On Track

As with all social media, a blog is an interactive space. This has great advantages in that you are able to initiate dialogues, get feedback from your readers and engage in discussions. But there are also numerous and significant drawbacks that you need to be aware of and plan for. 

The basic guidelines for a positive blogging experience are:

  • Always maintain your integrity. 
  • Tell the truth. Never lie, mislead, or cajole. Trust is slowly earned and easily lost.
  • Have a point and make it clear what it is
  • Expect critics – internet haters are everywhere and you need to be ready to handle them.

Here are some of the key things to watch out for.

Tone

There is a great deal of research to show that people behave differently online than they do face-to-face; they are less inhibited, more likely to be aggressive and more likely to take offence. As with email, social media is generally a poor medium of communication. You are unable to gauge the person’s body language or tone of voice, and are unable to quickly request clarification or correction. Short written communications like emails or comments to a blog can often come across as terse or aggressive, or overly defensive.  Bloggers need to be especially careful not to alienate their readers by adopting an unintentional negative tone.

Blogging for the numbers

It can be very tempting to write blog posts on controversial articles, or make inflammatory statements just to get more attention for your blog. This will come back to bite you. By all means be controversial but do it when it is appropriate and relevant and be ready for the response.

Don’t feed the trolls

The word “troll” is used in the social media context to refer to someone who is intentionally being provoking simply to get a reaction. They are usually not genuinely interested in your content. Sometimes they are pranksters, sometimes they are agitators. Either way, they are often able to completely derail a constructive discussion and can cause you to waste a great deal of time, and possible even alienate some of your genuine readers. It is very tempting to try and have the last word. A troll will NEVER let you. The best strategy to avoid wasting time and energy is simply not to engage with trolls.

Ignore SPAM

SPAM is usually understood as unsolicited email selling you something. Marketers are increasingly using social media for SPAM and you may find emails coming to your blog, or comments being made that are blatant advertising. Ignore and delete.

Moderate comments

When people submit comments to your blog, it is usually a good idea for one of the team members to check the comment before publishing it onto the site. This gives you the opportunity to remove all SPAM comments and trolling, as well as any comments that are contrary to your policy. For example, your commenting policy may state that you won’t tolerate comments that are racist. You are thus able to remove any racist comments before they appear on the blog. Moderation, also allows you to give bloggers a heads-up if there are specific comments that they should be responding to urgently.

Respect privacy

Blogs are generally much less formal than organisational web pages, and very often reflect the personalities and personal lives of the bloggers. For this reason, some people prefer to blog anonymously. When writing about your organisation this can be problematic. Be clear about your organisational policy regarding personal opinion and privacy. 

Be transparent

It is very important to be transparent in your blog communications, it fosters trust and accountability. Practically this means:

  • Don’t remove blog posts that have proven to be controversial.
  • If necessary, make corrections to a post by visibly striking out the incorrect text or inserting a clear edit (see below).
  • Have your commenting policy available and visible on the site.

Editing example

The news this morning reports that more than 100 5456 people have died in a terrible explosion at a factory in Fairyland.

Or

The news this morning reports that more than 100 people have died in a terrible explosion at a factory in Fairyland. 5[Edit: These numbers have subsequently risen dramatically, with the death toll as of 1 Jan 2014 being 5 456 people]