How New “Shadow Comment Sections” Will Affect Your Content

By Richard Miller

A new browser plug-in from the creators of Gab creates a comment section for all your content. Whether you want one or not. The operators of Gab, a social media website often in hot water for the content they allow on their platform, have rolled out in the last week a browser plug-in titled Dissenter. Dissenter enables users to use the URL’s of any online material to create a comment section chain on Dissenter’s site. In a sense, this aims to circumnavigate the publisher's ability to stop negative comments and discussion from appearing in tandem with their content.

How Does Dissenter Effect The Future Your Business?

Dissenter is not just something that publishers of controversial political content should become aware of. In the last couple years, news websites and many businesses have removed comments from their content (no comment section on the Nike News Blog, for example). Removal of comments became popular partly because there is no huge correlation between views and comments (often debated, Neil Patel measured 17% three years ago), but also that the comments sections typically go negative and toxic fast. Something about online anonymity cultivates meanness. So rather than hire a legion of moderators to patrol the comments found on Youtube, Blog, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more -they just started disabling them where available. In many ways, this was smart business -until it wasn’t.

Even before Dissenter appeared, some marketers and online entrepreneurs had started to bring comment sections back. While disabling comments had saved time and effort, some realized it also neutralized their ability to control a conversation, as well as giving the appearance of inaccessibility.

In a sense, some companies would rather have a crazy person outside their store yelling than a storefront full of cameras and grimacing employees (excuse the clumsy metaphor).

While Dissenter is still new, and internet startups are notoriously temperamental (as well as this one being a political fire keg) companies should be aware that this trend likely will not stop. Forty-six thousand people are using Dissenter within one week of it going live into beta. Even if it fails after this huge start, sites like Reddit will continue to be joined by others that give large communities the ability to comment and discuss your content. While Reddit has robust moderation in most areas, the rest typically pride themselves on the lack of restrictions.

What's the Solution?

Brands need to remember that a good offense is always the best defense. Businesses should begin to consider if the moderators are once again worth the price to keep that narrative and discussion around their brand positive, or at least palatable -regardless of what “trolls” may want. It’s not hard for a single misnamed product, or bad day for an employee to quickly bring condemnation your way -it also isn't uncommon for a brand to accrue a handful of dedicated haters from completely benign business decisions. At least by taking these detractors head-on, your brand will be able to put their narrative and response at the forefront.

Sites like YouTube and Facebook allow you to pin comments and replies (and/or give them priority to your viewers) so that you can put your official response just above or below any negative feedback or remarks. This also allows you to confront hostile comments in a friendly and controlled away -giving you further opportunity to boost your brand appearance in the exchange.

Final Thoughts

Don’t be afraid of the public. Now more than ever you need to learn to manage your brand image through a multitude of interactions across various platforms. How this is best done, is a whole other discussion.

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