Basics: Community moderation

Whether you’re promoting your brand, product or non-profit STEAM educational event aimed at inspiring children, you are going to have good, bad and ugly interactions with the Internet channels of your choosing. How you handle these reflects on you, and if you haven’t chosen a specific institutional voice (e.g. intentionally irreverent Wendy’s Twitter), here is the section I compiled for our marketing and communications guidelines in its entirety.




We want to use our channels to guide readers from awareness, through to advocacy. This requires that we be responsive to feedback, both positive and negative. Because it is impossible to predict every situation that may arise, you have agency in how you interact, but these are provided as a guide.

Positive responses


Thank them by @name.

Wanting to learn more

Direct them to appropriate resource:

General information → Website

Exhibiting or Speaking → Kenny

Sponsoring → Don

Wanting to buy tickets

Until July 7, direct them to interest form

After July 7, direct them to Eventbrite page


Spam / Link bots

Remove it.

Example: “I’m making $800 a day working from home. Find out more here.”

Off-topic self promotion

Ignore it.

Example: “I’m trying to get 1000 likes on my video.”

On-topic self promotion

Thank them. If it is good, share it on our channels.

Example: “I did something similar with blue LEDs. Check it out here.”

Negative responses

"If you wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty, and the pig likes it."

Generally: If you wouldn’t read it to a five year old, then remove it. Report threats.


Ignore it. We also do not want to over-curate the conversation. This can be difficult because it is intended to irritate, but they spent 10 seconds writing that, so if you feel you need to ‘win’ the encounter, you can’t spend more than 9 seconds being annoyed.


“He has too much time on her hands.”

“This is stupider than a screen door on a submarine.”

“That looks like a bicycle that got wrecked twice.”

Criticism (including criticism disguised as “asking questions”)

This is the most difficult, because defending our stance or explaining the nuances of a complex issue will consume a lot of time, and is ineffective with someone who has already made up their mind against us / what we do. It won’t always be trollish enough to ignore, and leaving it unchecked risks undecided 3rd parties going to their side.

The ideal situation is for one of our advocates to debate on our behalf. Failing that, be polite, but only respond with a restatement of the positive aspects of the content. Don’t J.A.D.E.–Justify Argue Defend Explain, because that will only lead to a circular argument on their terms.


Comment: “Why are we pouring money into robotics education when our schools don’t even have basic curriculum down!?”

Response: “This program is funded by donations and provides interested students exposure to a growing field they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

If all else fails: Disable comments

Popular Science went this route

From one study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard: 
  • Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself.
  • Those exposed to rude comments ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
  • Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd previously thought.
  • Another, similarly designed study found that just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science.

The tradeoff is that we lose the relationship building of interacting with supporters, and it changes the tone from speaking with our audience, to speaking at them. This is not a choice to make lightly, but we and the analytics can determine whether it is worth it.