Whether it’s a conversation on your own website or a discussion to which you have contributed here are some best practices for responding to and fostering a healthy online discussion.
1. Make sure to monitor the conversations regularly. It’s best to do this around a schedule. Put a time in place when you can sit down and go through the conversations. If it is your own forum that you are monitoring be clear with people on how often you will be doing this, people will know when to expect your response. For example, state that the forum will be monitored and responded to every two days, or each morning.
2. Set up your forum or response so that you get an alert every time a comment is made. This is super easy, most forums have a tick box. You’ll know when there are new comments to read.
3. Choose who to respond to first. If someone needs a reply immediately then address that comment first, especially if it’s a negative comment (see below on how to deal with negative comments). Replying immediately to positive comments can build a momentum of positivism.
4. Respond to what others have said. Check out what’s happening and what people are saying. Your best response is going to come from knowing what others are saying and addressing them directly. Ask people how they came to a conclusion or support their comments.
5. Add your knowledge. After responding to what others have said add your knowledge to the discussion. Build on the discussion and make it stronger by adding your new points and ideas. If you found some information that relates, share it with everyone.
6. Ask a question at the end. This will encourage others to respond to your post. The broader the question the more responses you may get. Make the question exciting and to reach a wide audience, you might get a few lurkers to come on board and respond.
– Remember there are always lots of ‘lurkers’ on forums, people who read but don’t actively participate. Your comment will be seen by many more than just those who have written.
How to best respond to an online discussion that has negative comments
Find the comments and address them. You’ve got to go through all the comments and find anything that might be confused or negative. This goes for anything that could damage your course or your brand.
Often people are lost and simply need support to be guided in the right direction. A negative comment could be a cry for help so put yourself there as support.
Remember to not loose your cool. If you think you might come back to the post later. Also remember not to remove the negative post. You can gain more loyal commentators if you address and resolve the issue. People will see that you are dedicated to building the community.
Most of all… relax and have fun.