To delete or not delete – THAT is the question. Many people don't think of blogs as two-way communication mediums, however the truth is that blog comments are an essential part of what makes the blogosphere tick. Therefore deleting comments has to be approached with caution – especially when you're using a blog to promote affiliate products. Comments are the lifeblood of reader engagement, but you also don't want to have comments that detract from the reader's experience. The hard decision comes when you have a comment that doesn't so much detract from the reader's experience, as it does detract from the goal you’re trying to achieve – in this case, promote an affiliate product.
Now you might be thinking, 'If I'm trying to promote a product, why wouldn't I delete any comments that might discourage people from buying?'. And that's a fair opinion. The question is, are you just trying to make a one off sale, or are you trying to build a long term asset in your blog? If you're just trying to make one sale and that is your only goal, then comment deletion might not be a big issue for you. However if you're trying to build long term relationships with your readers, with a view to not only increasing your reputation as a credible resource, but also making multiple sales to the same readers – then deleting any comments that refute your claims could set a dangerous precedent, where readers view your blog as just an inflated sales page, rather than a genuinely helpful resource.
At Affilorama, we try to avoid deleting comments – even if they disagree with us. If we promote a product, and someone posts a detrimental or negative comment about that product, we tend to allow it. This is because we believe it's more important to allow an open discussion about a product's pros and cons, rather than just sell, sell, sell.
But we do delete some comments. Here are three reasons why we sometimes delete comments – reasons that you might find useful in your own blog moderation.
Offensive, derogatory or off-topic posts:
This one's pretty easy. If anyone posts anything on your blog that is offensive or personally targeted at you or any other reader, then deletion is not only necessary, it is essential to maintaining a level of decorum on your blog. Likewise with off-topic posts (spam and promotional messages could fall under this category too), the point of blog comments is to foster dialogue about the blog subject, not to allow people to spout off on anything and everything they want.
Unsubstantiated or unfair claims:
There is a big difference between someone commenting on your blog (a promotional post) saying “I've used this product, but I didn't like this, this and this, but this part was good,” and someone saying “This product is awful, a complete waste of money, it's a SCAM!”. If you're promoting a product, you are tying your reputation to that product – so hopefully you've already checked that this product is of good enough quality that people are going to be getting value out of it. So in the case of the later comment, which adds no useful information to the conversation, and is basically just one person ranting about how they don't like the product – deletion is in the best interest of the majority of your readers, your reputation and your business. The first comment however, though not necessarily what you want to hear, is still valid. The best idea is to write your own comment in response. Even if you refute their claims, you can still do it in a respectful way that maintains the conversational nature of your blog.
Issues better handled privately or one-on-one:
When I was in college, there was a bit of an unwritten rule that you only put your hand up and asked a question of the professor if you thought that the whole class could benefit from the answer. Nothing annoyed classmates more than sticking up your hand and asking a question specific to your project or your idea – a question that could be much better answered one on one with the professor. In many ways blogs and blog comments work the same way. Comments are a great way for you to share your knowledge, add your perspective, or ask for more information regarding the topics discussed in the post. Comments, however, are not well suited to dealing with individual customer support questions or complaints.
Now it's important to understand that often people will just reach for whatever is closest when they have a problem, which might just happen to be the comments section on your latest blog post, but could just as likely be your Facebook fan page or group, or an @Reply on Twitter. While you can try to answer these questions through these channels, more often than not you're going to have to be able to ask them for more information and have a bit of back and forth going in order to solve the problem. But no-one else wants or needs to read all of this! It’s kind of like when you're in a group of people, two of which are having their own little private conversation... it gets annoying! So the best idea when you get a comment like this is to email the person directly, start a dialogue that way, and then promptly delete the comment.
So that's three of the reasons why we might delete comments. Do you think there are others? As this is a blog post about blog comments, hopefully it will get lots! So let me know what you think and I'll do my best to respond!!