How do you deal with off-topic comments?


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You're regularly creating compelling content. You've got an active and engaged readership.  Your pageviews are going up.

 

You've just written a post to be proud of– people are leaving thoughtful and insightful comments, and you're THRILLED with the response.

 

The email arrives from a regular reader, “‘I agree that it would be good with applesauce.” (aka–something off-topic, irrelevant, blatantly ignoring what you're saying–thank you Corinne/Frock and Roll for the example!).  Your mind starts blazing…”Huh? Did I really write that? Wasn't I clear? Where did I miscommunicate my points? Where did I go wrong?

 

How do you handle this? It's happened to me many, many times.  You can….

  • Ignore their comment.  But is that the impression you want to leave for other readers?  On the other hand, it can keep you from getting in to a flame war on your site– and we all know those are SO 2001.
  • Say, “Thank you for your thoughts! That's given me a lot to think about.” Afterall, it HAS–whether you think they've missed the mark or not.
  • Similarly, you can respond “Thanks for your insight. I didn't see it that way.” (via SuperAlzy)
  • Alternately, you could say, “Interesting point! How did you come to that conclusion?” (via MlleGhoul)  This approach invites your reader back to re-read your post, their comment, and to think more about the discussion at hand.  It's beneficial to both parties!

Regardless of how you respond or what the reader said, Prom Mafia makes an incredible point: People only hear what they want, know, and understand, regardless of what you are actually saying.


As bloggers, this makes our jobs all the more difficult–we want, as easily, succinctly, and clearly as possible to communicate our opinions, views, advice, and desires to our readers, whether it is through video, writing, or pictures.   So how do you handle it when you receive off-base/confusing/off-topic/irrelevant comments?  Do you have any great tips that weren't mentioned above?

 

 

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32 Responses

  1. Christy L.

    I love stinky cheese!

    😛

    I don’t receive very many off topic comments, except for weird banter on Twitter. I guess my blog doesn’t have a big enough reach yet to get those wacky, nonsensical messages. I guess I have something to look forward to haha.

    Reply
  2. Freya

    Great thoughts! I especially like the “how did you come to that conclusion” so that is starts a conversation.

    Reply
  3. evie

    I wrote a post about the blogger/blog weight issue where I basically outlined my own personal views about how I read a lot of blogs and gain inspiration from people of all shapes and sizes etc.
    I got a couple of defensive lengthy comments about how bigger bloggers should be able to have fashion blogs too and that the plus-sized community can be just as interested in fashion.
    I was totally blindsided by these comments, they didn’t relate to what I had said AT ALL but sitting there in the comments made it look like I had written some kind of sizest rant. Admittedly, these were just 2 comments amongst 20+ but still I felt upset that people were misunderstanding me and that maybe I was being thought of badly.
    I realise what happened is that these people possibly scanned the first few lines of the post and presuming to know what it was about decided to get on their soapbox. I try and always respond to every comment so I did, saying how I agreed with what they had said and gently trying to summarise what I had actually said.

    Sorry for the long story, but it is a difficult area. You can’t scream “READ IT AGAIN…slowly” because it’s so true that people often read what they want to read and take from it different things. Politeness is key but its also important to maintain your original ideas and not let everything get off topic.

    Great post! x

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      Yes! In posts like that, it’s really easy for people to respond emotionally, from their gut, and not realize what the post is actually about.

      Yikes, sorry hon 🙁

      Reply
  4. Katy

    It took me a really long to time to realize that people are going to see things in my posts that simply are not there. I do try to correct them in the comments if they’ve come to an erroneous conclusion. If it’s a more sensitive topic, I might send an e-mail to the reader further explaining my thoughts. I think it all depends on how off-base the comment is.

    Reply
  5. L of Avid Accents

    I would probably ignore the comment although if this is the first comment on your post, it could prevent others from commenting. i’ve learned that the first comment usually sets the tone of the discussion.

    ~L~

    Reply
  6. lisa

    I agree with Treacle and WendyB. I’ll publish the comment but won’t respond, and if it’s spam I delete it. There are a lot of seemingly off-topic comments that are actually copy/paste sentences posted by spammers, so I’ve begun moderating comments and checking the source of each one.

    Sometimes off-topic comments can come from a reader intending to say something about a previous post of yours, but clicking the comments link on a more recent post by mistake. I have no problem with those.

    Reply
  7. Twenty Something Chic

    What a great article! Bloggers inevitably deal with these types of comments far more often than we’d all like. That being said, I’ve been finding that the simple act of trying to clarify your point is much appreciated, if not by the specific commenter, then at least by your other readers.
    I’m not saying that you should respond to each and every off-topic or ignorant comment – many of them aren’t worth it. But sometimes it can be more beneficial to interact with these readers rather than simply letting their misguided comments pollute your wall.

    Reply
  8. Twenty Something Chic

    What a great article! Bloggers inevitably deal with these types of comments far more often than we’d all like. That being said, I’ve been finding that the simple act of trying to clarify your point is much appreciated, if not by the specific commenter, then at least by your other readers.
    I’m not saying that you should respond to each and every off-topic or ignorant comment – many of them aren’t worth it. But sometimes it can be more beneficial to interact with these readers rather than simply letting their misguided comments pollute your wall.

    Reply
  9. x Corrine/Frock & Roll x

    A fabulous topic, my dear! I have absolutely no idea how to handle off-topic comments – my response to the ”apple sauce” incident was to sit behind my laptop and giggle uncontrollably! :p I usually just smile and try to imagine what the commenter in question THOUGHT the post would be about – in the case of the apple sauce comment, I’m still guessing!

    Reply
  10. Diana

    So far my only experience with off-topic is spam, or in one or two cases I suspect it was obvious trolling. The comments were written in that muddled “text” speak that kids were doing about three years ago. My average poster is much more literate than that, so I just assumed it was some kind of 4chan style pranking.

    I imagine if it seemed way out of line with the post I might contact the poster privately and ask “how did you come to this?” before I posted the comment.

    Reply
  11. Paula

    How does it go–that people only read the headline and first three sentences? And if these people are reading lots of blogs, I’m sure they are missing the point. I can’t believe that most people have the time to really read most of what we write! We’d love to believe they do but I’ll choose to ignore those comments that probably came from a really, tired reader!

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      Yes! I’m glad you brought that up… “How does it go–that people only read the headline and first three sentences?” It’s so true!

      And tired reader is true…. I know I am most of the time!

      Reply
  12. diya

    Great tips… one potential you’ve left off is spammers that mask themselves as commenters.

    I usually check to see if the commenter’s name is linked to a website selling stuff if their comment doesn’t make sense…some times I get people trying to sell vacuums or ____ so they’ll half-ass attempt to tie their product link to my post…

    Reply
    • AsheMischief

      Oh, definitely! I think I get those ALL the time… sometimes I have to email another blogger and ask, “Do you think this is real?”

      But I meant more of once we’ve deduced that they aren’t spammers (which I should have said *blush*) But I’m glad you brought it up… because there are probably a lot of bloggers who can’t tell the difference between spam or not….

      Reply
  13. Jason

    Sometimes I like to read these spam comments as if they have actually read my article. In fact I wrote a blog about it as it made me laugh (no one else I’m guessing).

    I think a lot of people just skim blogs so their comments often don’t fully grasp the intent. Sometimes I’ll receive a comment from someone who clearly didn’t make it past the first paragraph.

    Reply
  14. Ondo Lady

    I don’t get many off topic comments but as long as it is not sales related or someone trying to blatantly plug something then I will publish it but I wouldn’t bother replying.

    Reply
  15. Bethany

    I love off topic comments! less they are rude… that’s not off topic just rude and deleted. But I think it’s fun, you do it in conversations all the times, tangents make conversation fun! And sometimes it can spark off new idea’s.

    thecountrycitygirls.blogspot.com

    Reply
  16. Franca

    It’s funny, I’ve recently turned off both word verification and allowed anonymous comment to make it as easy aspossible for people to interact. I do get a fair bit of spam but blogger is alright at filtering this out.

    What baffles me more is comments that are anonymous and read like spam (e.g. ‘Your blog is very instructive. Thank you for sharing your expertise’ on an outfit post from like a year ago. Sometimes they are in spanish too) but don’t link to anything. I just don’t understand why these exist and I’m never quite sure what to do with them. I have erred on the side of not deleting them if blogger has let them through in case there is actually someone who thinks my outfits are very instructive, but I am worried that these are just paving the way for proper spam later on.

    Reply
  17. toni

    oh I receive those OT comments all the time. I share some inspirations, give credit (!) and I get comments like: oh beautiful what youre wearing.
    Sometimes I ask myself if people even right what I write or if they just look at the pics.

    Reply
  18. Alyssa Pritchett

    Yes, this is a very interesting article although I do not receive very many comments like this. My approach to this would be to acknowledge their point of view, without disrespecting their opinion.

    Reply
  19. Pearl Westwood

    Ive had the odd one where the commenter is obviously just leaving a comment to push their own link, they dont even care what the post was about – so I just delete them! If I felt someone had just genuenly been confused by something I wrote I would try and explain.

    Reply
  20. Jillian Rueter

    I usually delete all irrelevant comments such as spam, etc. Thankfully, most of my comments are on topic. I do not mind a little self promotion, as long as the commentator talks about the blog post in some form.

    I have a discussion forum that gets TONS of spam. Previously, I would email each and every one of the perpetrators, kindly asking them to keep their topics related to the group theme. Now, I just manually delete all of them. I have to keep my comments moderated because of consistent and very annoying spammers.

    Reply
  21. Helen

    spam is the most annoying of these types! It just makes you wonder how they come across your blog in the first place.

    Reply
  22. Vanessa

    I’ve had a few comments that left me scratching my head and saying, “wah-hut?” Or, they ask a question that’s clearly answered in my post. My response has been to off-topic questions has been ignore, but to go to there site and make sure I say something contentful in return that shows I am trying to pay attention to what they write and post. I figure if I try to leave quality feedback, not quantity feedback, that’s the best way to build relationships with other bloggers and non-bloggers/readers.
    These are great tips for how to respond in a crunch. I need to print out a cheat-sheet!

    Reply
  23. Lizzie

    I occasionally have someone comment on the wrong post, and at first it makes no sense, but then it dawns on me the comment was for Monday’s post and they accidentally put it on Tuesdays. In those instances I respond as if the comment was part of the conversation.

    If it is obvious that the comment is spam, I take out any links and respond in a wise-ass manner; either that or I delete it.

    Reply