So you’re afraid that if you open up comments on your blog, your Facebook page, or even on a note you send out through Flocknote (yep, Flocknote’s one of the best ways to have group convos), you might get some mean, nasty or inappropriate comments?
I understand. So what do we do about that? Here are 5 thoughts that will help:
1. First, it’s not an all or nothing thing. Recognize that you don’t need open comments on *everything* you do. Not everything must be a discussion and not all places are ideal for the type of conversation that might ensue. So we must choose prudently when and where conversations online should take place. There are also lots of ways to moderate and mitigate any legitimate concerns.
2. Like most fears, when they remain ambiguous and undefined, they come off a lot scarier than they really are. Write down the worst thing that could happen. Then write down what you would do in response if that thing happened. In the end, you’ll realize it’s probably not as bad as you think. Furthermore, don’t let hypothetical future situations that may never actually happen cripple your potential now. In most cases, just try it…then address issues if and when they come up.
3. We must think of our online platform not as an extension of the pulpit, but as an extension of the community hall. Let’s be honest, when you invite people to an offline event, can you keep a visitor from yelling a profanity or being mean to somebody or asking an embarrassing question in front of everyone? Nope. But if that happens, you have a way of dealing with it and life goes on. It’s the same online. Have a simple policy and procedure in place for dealing with whatever might happen.
4. See the opportunity. If somebody makes a comment online complaining about you or being angry about something, what an amazing opportunity it is! It’s a chance to respond with love. To listen. To understand. To address real concerns. And to show others in the community what a loving response looks like. Let us lead by example with radical service to our members, addressing their needs and struggles with humility, care and compassion. It’s the quickest way to disarm negative attacks and to bring good from them.
5. Finally, we must remember that usually the positives far outweigh the negatives. You’re building relationships here, not just telling people what you want them to know. Relationships require interaction, your members expect it (including and especially online). You must trust them and give them a voice.
Engage your folks or lose them. If all you’re doing is talking at them (rather than listening, relating and then participating), you’re missing the point and potential of these powerful tools. Most of all, you’re missing out on how much they can contribute to the success of your mission and strength as a community. Don’t let your fear of the unknown hold you back! Do not be afraid.