Content publishing and public opinion
Your goal is to create an audience around you that will follow you, because your topics and style is compatible with them, and in tune with their opinions. If successful, you will also hear from readers who disagree, dislike or downright hate your opinion. The more popular your content becomes, the more diverse your audience is, and it's important to identify the different categories of audiences, their typical reactions, and how to provide an appropriate response.
Responding appropriately to readers comments is the most important aspect of your publishing, but as a general rule, you can't let it become the most time consuming aspect of your daily activities as a writer. It's human nature to defend your ideas and opinions, but if your higher purpose is to build a following, it's important to understand the value of composure.
The Flame Warrior
The term "flame war" is an old one. The first time i heard it was in 1996, as a college kid, listening to mp3 recordings of Eric Corley (AKA: Emmanuel Goldstein)'s WBAI radio show "Off The Hook", from 2600 the Hacker Quarterly's website. If you were born in 1996, chances are you'll have to Google it, so let me save you some time: I'm old.
Moving on, a Flame War is a heated argument that quicky turns into a pointless exchange of personal attacks, devoid of any value or supporting arguments for the original topic that started the conversation. There is no gain in either engaging, or trying to suppress a flame war. If you get nowhere within the first three or four exchanges, do not be afraid to block and ignore. As a content writer, your time is better spent creating than arguing, so don't be afraid to turn the hose and get back to work.
If you happen to write content about a brand, a religion, or a political view, chances are you will begin noticing either short caustic one-liners designed to provoke a reaction, or verbose rants explaining in detail the evil nature of (blank), why you should feel bad for even writing about (blank) with any kind of positive/cheerful tone, and why you should stop, and convert to the (blank) side.
As much as the temptation to block them is strong... don't.
While flame warriors are most likely casual readers with nothing better to do in their lives than start fights over the Internet, crusaders are useful in comment threads, because unlike flame warriors, crusaders have an actual opinion. Engaging crusaders can be tricky, as the passion for their cause is genuine, and once you establish yourself as somebody who believes in something opposite to what they stand for, it's time to move on, before your emotions take over, making you the one who sounds like a raving lunatic.
Ironically, technology topics are where the most heated arguments take place. Whether it's Mac vs PC, iOS vs Android or Windows vs Linux, you can't possibly expect to get everyone on your side. So, don't try.
The Post Hijacker
Hijackers love to include links to their own favorite posts and websites when commenting. Normally, it's perfectly fine to drop a useful link in a comment, as long as there is a valid argument behind it, and as long as it doesn't cause your current audience to migrate to that post. For instance, wikipedia entries and news articles containing information corroborating to an argument are acceptable. What is not acceptable is to hijack a post with a link to a personal website, or to somebody elses post looking to boost their own popularity.
Post hijacking is a universally recognized form of personal spam, so it's perfectly OK to sanitize your comment stream from this kind of abuse.
The Marketing Troll
Once your popularity reaches a certain level, your posts are exposed to marketing trolls: an army of underpaid sweatshop-grade marketers with one mission, which is to clutter your comment feed with hyperlinks, and poorly spelled testimonials, over, and over, and over, and over again. Fortunately, posts generated by marketing trolls are easy to spot, so don't waste time reading any of that. Just delete, block, ignore, repeat.
If you write about a technical subject, and you make a mistake, or trip over yourself, you will be caught. No question about it. You will be spotted, judged, and your article will be dissected to the bone, for all it is worth.
Fact checking is the most popular blood sport on the web. So, why shouldn't you fact-check? If you write something, it's your responsibility to be as accurate as you can, and spend as much time researching your topic as you need. If you are a technology writer it gets worse, because anyone with a strong opinion for or against a brand, or a technology, will have a reason to correct you.
How do you respond to that? With class and a mouthful of humble pie. There is no response that will make you look like the smart one. When someone takes you to school, all you can do is dust yourself off and keep writing.
Generic rules of engagement
Engaging with your audience is an important part of your daily activities as a writer and a publisher. It can also take a considerable amount of your time, depending on the amount of feedback you receive. As you progress and your audience grows, time to respond to comments shrinks, and the worst thing you could do is to get to a point when you force yourself to choose between writing and engaging.
There should always be interaction between writers and readers. Engagement builds your position as a content provider, and teaches you about what your audience wants from you, so you can focus on what's important to your readers.
If you publish content for marketing, you must get ready to deal with different points of view, learn to engage appropriately. Never forget your purpose for writing: your audience.
11th March, 2015
11th March, 2015
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