YouTube comments have a terrible reputation and deservedly so. YouTube is massive and there are a lot of people posting nasty and offensive things on the website.
At the same time, even though this is true, we don’t have to reserve ourselves to accepting this as the norm in the comments sections for our own videos. It comes down to what your standards are, how much you care and how much you are willing to work.
Soda Tasting, my 5 day a week soda review show, is now more than 6 months old and the majority of the comments made regarding my videos have been made on YouTube. I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but so far it hasn’t been that bad.
The show is a work friendly and generally family friendly program. One of the cornerstones of the show is that I approach reviewing in a respectful way and try to be fair. Even when I don’t like something, I don’t say that it sucks or that anyone who likes it is stupid. Quite the opposite, the show is 100% a matter of taste and I simply speak from my own taste. My favorite may be someone else’s least favorite. My least favorite may be someone else’s favorite. My aim is to create a very friendly, respectful community where no one is treated poorly simply for their taste in soda because that would be silly.
The environment that I have on the show is what I try to apply to the comments. I want to build a community that is consistent with the vibe of what I am producing. So that means no extreme profanity, personal attacks, inflammatory comments, etc. We can disagree all day. You can say that the soda that I enjoyed makes you sick. You can ask me why I spit soda and tell me you think it’s funny or strange. But when you get mean, disrespectful or use slurs, that’s when you’re comment will be deleted. If it is bad enough or if you persist, I will block you.
To date, I have had 1,037 comments, according to YouTube analytics (I assume that includes my own comments). I have probably had to delete around 14 comments and I have blocked 7 people. Like I said, not too bad. It hasn’t taken me that much time, as it is fairly easy to remove and block from the comments page.
What I am accomplishing is that consistent, friendly community that I spoke of. Overall, my commenters have been great. A friend of mine even remarked recently that he was amazed at how great my comments section was. The more viewers I have, the more people will comment, the more people will try to be disruptive. My intention for now is to weed them out.
Will there come a time when it might be too much for me to manage? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know that I want to simply let it go. Many people just let happen what may because they don’t care to invest the time to properly moderate their comments and they believe it just means more traffic for them (people coming back to argue with each other), which means more revenue.
Personally, I don’t really care about traffic, I care about culture. Even if I were to one day give up or reduce my role, the work that I am doing now, and the work I continue to do, will set a strong foundation of loyal viewers who will know what the community is really about and will continue to influence it in a positive way. Setting these sort of foundational and aspirational goals helps create that expectation and then the viewers who appreciate that environment will work to continue to encourage it.
It is definitely possible to have a great YouTube comments area and to build solid community with your viewers. It just takes a little work.