Social Media Guidelines: Comment Policies

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A huge part of building a healthy blog community can be found in how you handle comments, both internally and externally. Here are some things to keep in mind as you write the section of your social media guidelines that addresses commenting procedures:

Comment Policy for Your Own Blog
In the United States, you legally don't own the comments left by other people on your blog, which means that you can't even delete them unless you have a clear terms of use clause stating your ability to do so. Will you moderate comments? If so, to what extent? Will you edit comments (for clarity, to remove profanity, etc)? This part of your guidelines should make sure everyone knows how comments should be moderated (and if you don't have a policies page on your blog stating you reserve the right to moderate comments, add one.)

Many blogging platforms collect the IP addresses of commenters. How will these be used? Strictly in-house in conjunction with analytics platforms? A few years ago, an anonymous commenter left rather rude comments on several high-profile blogs. One of the bloggers traced their identity and found their physical address, shared it with the other bloggers and some made real threats. You can run into huge issues with IP addresses, so make sure your guidelines address how they should be used. My suggestion is to treat IP addresses like a bank treats customer data: in-house and for professional use only.

Leaving Comments on Other People's Blogs
How often will you comment on other blogs? What will your commenting protocol be (positive, real compliments, are civil disagreements okay, is profanity okay?) How should the comment form be filled out (the company's name or the employee's name)? Is it okay for employees to comment anonymously? Who should be linked - the employee's company twitter profile, the company’s main page, etc? (Note: the majority of comment links do not help your SEO because of the way the comment sections are coded, but do consider where you want each comment to drive traffic of the people who may click on your name.)

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