A common misconception about online, live commenting tools has taken root within the internet. Want to take a guess as to what that might be? Let us give you a bit of hint:
Want a quick way to make the internet like 60 percent better? Turn off commenting on all websites.
— Silver Shamrock Shake (@grayflannelsuit) June 22, 2014
Thanks to spammers, bots, trolls and toxic behavior, people now believe that commenting tools are destructive to a brand’s reputation. And with 63% of Americans convinced that incivility online results from social media, it’s no surprise that people think of all online social experiences in a negative way.
Here’s just a small taste of why people hate live commenting tools online:
I’ve said the same thing about many social media posts. The disconnect of online commenting seems to remove any consideration or niceness and replaces it with a total disregard for others. https://t.co/RNmUOOzbaQWant to learn more about audience development for your digital properties?
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— Kristen Doerschner (@KrisDoerschner) June 10, 2018
In a Facebook post, one commenter responds to a video titled ‘What if Online Trolls Acted Like Trolls in Real Life:’ “This is why I think most websites should turn off their commenting sections. People say so much online that they never would face to face. And most of the political arguments would evaporate too, which would be great.”
People assume that comments — especially those posted in real time — threaten the health of a community as harassment, profanities and spam can be brought alive instantly, with the push of a button.
But while these concerns are all valid, they encourage the loss of profitable, on-site audience engagement. In reality, there’s actually a way to host real-time commenting tools on your owned and operated properties without damaging your brand.
The Uses and Gratification Theory introduces us to the idea that people actively seek out media to fulfill their needs for information, human connection and socialization. Commenting tools can help to satisfy this innate human need to socialize and connect with others, sparking healthy, social interaction online.
Breaking the Chain of Misinformation Around Commenting
Media organizations that have killed or rejected commenting sections have experienced and will continue to experience a massive loss of opportunity.
Yes, there are trolls running wild online, just itching to frustrate other people. So rather than letting them — along with countless other digital trouble-makers — ruin your engagement tools, all you need to do is put one simple measure in place to tame them: comment moderation.
The future of media is comment moderation.
— Ryan Osborn (@rozzy) September 3, 2013
Comment moderation can completely flip your commenting platform from destructive to profitable in a matter of moments. In fact, communities that had sophisticated moderation in place see significant on-site engagement growth: including 62% more user likes, 35% more comments per user and 34% more replies per user.
By creating a protected and social environment that users can engage with, you can begin building a loyal community that drives revenue.
Ratings, comments, reviews–it all provides useful feedback. But on the company side, it’s a tool that increases engagement so more users funnel to the subscription model.
— Alex Clippinger (@Aclippinger) September 11, 2019
Civil, live commenting platforms help to form an environment where visitors feel safe enough to participate in conversation. As they create meaningful discussions with others around content, their propensity to subscribe increases.
Comments also provide organizations with valuable audience engagement metrics.
Commenting, liking, reading comments are powerful engagement metrics that are predictors of reg/subscription.
— Dan Seaman (@danielseaman) July 12, 2016
Just as the previous post stated, these metrics can help organizations identify community behavior and content preferences, which can be used to improve editorial and subscription strategies. Take it a step further by making sure you’re getting first-party audience data from your commenting tools so you can gather actionable insights to help grow your community.
Setting Rules in Your Community
If you’re going to bring a commenting tool into your platform, you need to decide how strict your comment moderation should be.
A recent post on The Verge outlines the value of moderation in online communities. In the article, Twitch’s CEO, Emmett Shear, addresses the difference between allowing free speech and building a civil community online:
“I hope people can express themselves. I hope they can share their ideas, share their thoughts. But we’re not a platform for free speech. We are not upholding the First Amendment. That’s the government’s job. We’re a community. And communities have standards for how you have to behave inside that community. And so we think that it’s not anything goes.”
Free speech is important to society as a whole, but online, speech that disrupts a community’s overall health is toxic to a brand’s success. Which is why it’s so important to set community guidelines and enforce them throughout your engagement tools.
“[A community] with good, strong moderation, in many ways, is actually the place with freer speech,” says Shear. “Because it was actually the place where people could express themselves and not just get destroyed by trolls and abuse and harassment.”
Preventing toxicity on your platform actually forms an ideal environment for users to interact with one another in.
So here’s the bottom line: moderated commenting tools are absolute necessities to engage visitors, build communities and grow revenue.
Can’t afford to spare any resources to do the moderation in-house? You may want to look into a tool that offers automatic moderation services. You can review the different types of moderation here.