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How to Comment on Social Media

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Commenting and writing are really two different things. There are many books, articles, presentations and 1-2-3 posts that will tell you how to build a professional presence online. The general idea is to build a body of work that proves to the world you are a credible, trustworthy presence in whatever sphere you claim to operate in.

While commenting is a form of writing, the emphasis is different. After all, comments are a reaction, they are inherently defensive, whereas the act of putting something out there is proactive and creative. So you need to have good reason for saying what you say.

We are living in defensive times. Every word you put out there matters. It establishes who you are. Your opinions will be scrutinized; your command of the facts, and how you articulate them, portrays you as either a respectable person or a fake, flake or dummy.

No matter how benign your words, somebody out there will at some point take offense. You may deserve a challenge or a correction on legitimate grounds. Or, they may get ideological with you. They may attack you personally. You comment, they comment and suddenly it is an endless and unproductive protracted debate that makes everyone look bad.

So what are the qualities that make social media comments most effective? What are the things you should avoid? Here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind: 

Do:

  • Identify yourself if you can.
  • Say what you have to say without censoring yourself.
  • Express your truly held beliefs.
  • Share facts that can be independently validated, or opinion columns with the caveat that this line of thinking makes sense to you or is a good read (but obviously you are not expected to validate it).
  • Refer people to a source where they can independently assess the quality of the information you're providing.
  • Be polite and respectful, remembering that you are talking to an actual person.
  • Hold people accountable for the implications of what they are saying, but recognize common ground first, if you can.
  • Generally, help to further a productive dialogue that gets people closer to the essence of whatever topic is under discussion.
  • Make statements of support for what another person is going through or sharing of an emotional nature.

Don't:

  • Censor yourself because you are afraid other people won't like you.
  • Behave recklessly. You've heard the term drunk tweeting? Don't let that be you.
  • Say things that you know have no basis in fact.
  • Attack people for having a certain opinion.
  • Engage in personal attacks or make offensive statements.
  • Make reckless statements.
  • Take money in exchange for making comments that appear to be un-sponsored. It's one thing to announce yourself, but quite another to lie.
  • Tell people that they have no right to post a certain thing on a certain platform because there are other places that are more appropriate--you are not the platform police.

Copyright 2016 by Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of her employer or any other organization or entity.

Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D., is a federal communicator with 20 years' experience in the private sector, academia and government. Best known for her work on branding, Dr. Blumenthal now focuses on the discipline of management, particularly the intersections between identity, culture and communication. She has lectured at a variety of schools including The George Washington University and the University of Maryland University College. In her spare time she is an independent community activist, focused primarily on raising awareness about child sexual abuse and domestic violence. All opinions are her own.

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