Comment Moderation 101

You would be surprised by the number of excellent platforms, news publications, and content creators who do not have clear content moderation policies (and therefore experience frequent kerfuffles). Though moderating comments is by no means something people enjoy, you can actually get a lot out of the experience (and avoid a lot of trouble) by adhering to just a small handful of simple practices:

Painting of a woman writing on paperDevelop a policy

You will have a lot of trouble knowing what to do with comments if you do not have a set policy and practice. To develop a good comment moderation policy, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Will I allow comments at all?
  2. Will I allow anonymous comments? Or, if possible, will I require that visitors be signed in to leave comments?
  3. Under what circumstances will I delete comments?
  4. Under what circumstances will I reply to comments?

Take time to really consider your answers and their potential implications. Once you have, turn your insights into a more-or-less fixed policy, and make it available to those who view and interact with your content.

Note: While you only need to make your policy public once you get a high volume of comments on your work/site, it doesn’t hurt to outline that policy before you find yourself overwhelmed.

Stick with it

I strong moderation policy of any sort means nothing if it is not adhered to. It is not a good idea to make exceptions to your policy, so think carefully before doing so (and if you must make multiple exceptions, consider changing your overall policy).

Publish or delete; do not alter

As tempting as it might be, do not alter others’ comments before publishing them (even if you’re just fixing a typo- unless the commenter contacts you and explicitly asks you to do so). If part of someone’s comment does not adhere to your criteria (e.g. it contains a foul word) but the rest is OK, do not edit that comment just so you can publish it.

It is very important that you leave others’ words intact, even if that means not making them public at all.

People Racing a DinosaurRespond to the earliest comments

Sometimes the issue with comments isn’t that you have too many trolls or do not know what you should delete, but rather that you don’t know when to stop replying. Though engaging with fans and followers is important, one should still devote most of one’s time to creating new, high-quality content, so after one reaches a certain level of popularity, it doesn’t make sense to respond to every comment anymore.

Once you reach this point, a good rule of thumb is to simply respond to the first comments you get within 2, 12, or 24 hours of publication.

Respond to loyal fans

Not all commenters are equal, and it is fair to argue that some deserve special treatment. If you have any loyal fans who always leave comments, share your videos with their friends, and have always been there for you, it is worth it to make a special effort to reach out to them and respond to comments they make- even if they don’t fall within your publication cutoff time.

Mine comments for personal growth opportunities

Though it may be possible for you to respond to every comment you get, it does pay off to read as many as you can. By going through feedback from your viewers/readers/fans, you can:

  • Be notified of errors that need fixing
  • Discover why it is that viewers find a particular piece of content so good/bad/amusing
  • Get ideas for future content
  • Get to know your audience better

By making it clear that you actively read (if not respond to) every comment you get and actively responding to suggestions from your fans, you can build a stronger bond with your audience at large (while becoming a better content creator to boot!).

Just remember that the opinions expressed by those who leave comments may not be the opinions of your entire audience. Only a small, vocal minority of your fans will ever leave comments. Major decisions should be driven not just by feedback given via comments, but also aggregate sales and traffic stats, as well as subscription, purchase, following, and sharing behavior.