Students in my blogging class for financial advisers have asked me how to respond to bad comments on their blogs. Advisers’ definitions of “bad” vary. First, you need to define the word “bad” for your blog, and then you can develop a policy.
What Is Bad?
Your definition of a bad comment will differ from the rest of the world’s if you’re regulated by the SEC or FINRA. You must be wary of testimonials that appear to endorse you or your firm.
Other types of comments you may classify as bad include:
- Product recommendations or other comments that verge on offering investment advice, regardless of their merit
- Spammy comments that appear to have been made solely for the purpose of obtaining a link back to the author’s website
- Comments that are offensive or seem like the ideas of a crazy person
- Comments that disagree with your viewpoint
You may decide to deal differently with different categories of “bad.”
Enabling your blog’s comment moderation function is one way to keep bad comments from being seen by anyone but you. The downside of comment moderation is that it suggests that you don’t trust your readers. Plus, it denies readers the joy of seeing their comments published immediately. If you moderate comments, you should arrange for immediate notification of new comments so you respond quickly, especially on the day of publication.
Your Options: Delete or Reply
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule. However, once you’ve identified potential risks, I suggest you create a policy on comments and get it reviewed by a compliance professional. Having a written policy is helpful when dealing with regulators.
You will need to delete certain comments to stay on the right side of the SEC and FINRA. Consider making a list of obvious violations so you can delete them without hesitation.
What else should you delete? I vote for deleting spammy and offensive content. Offensiveness is in the eye of the beholder, so you may need to make a judgment call about whether content is insulting, racist, or otherwise undesirable.
In some cases, I suggest you delete the comment, but send its author an email. For example, a client testimonial deserves an appreciative note explaining the deletion. Blogs routinely require that commenters enter an email address, so this should be easy to do.
Comments that disagree with your views can be upsetting, but they also offer an opportunity to show your open-mindedness, especially if the opinions are phrased respectfully and grounded in fact. Often the commenter simply seeks an acknowledgment of his or her opinion. You don’t need to agree.
Of course, the beauty of a blog, especially if you’re a solo adviser, is that you can respond as you please to comments that don’t violate laws or regulations.
I’m interested in learning how you handle comments. Please share your methods here.
Susan B. Weiner, CFA
Author of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients
Author of Investment Writing blog