2 years ago I made a video called the Baited Response. In it I talked about trolls online
and how misunderstood they are. You can’t win by responding to them. And if you don’t,
they get away with bullying, no repercussions! So the only way you can really win is to manipulate
people into posting nicer comments. Which itself sounds horrible. ‘Manipulate’
isn’t a nice word. And the humanity of it all is lost when I stop treating my audience
as individuals, and instead as a crowd that needs to be ‘shaped’ and ‘channelled’.
But unfortunately, once an audience reaches a certain size, that’s how a crowd behaves.
But hey, I’m fighting trolls here. Nobody likes those. Surely everybody would rather
exist in a more positive environment? But it’s difficult to do. It means dedicating
my time and attention to positive comments. When I see something horrible I can think
of a hundred replies I could type. But a positive one? What do I say to that? ‘Thank you?’
Bit boring. Start a conversation? Yes, but I’m preaching to the choir.
In 2016, Youtube gave content creators the Heart and Pin features to help encourage good
behaviour. Can you believe it’s been over 3 years already? Pinning comments is straight-forward
enough- it brings that post to the top of the comments section, making it a great way
to influence other comments by pinning something positive, or to start a debate by pinning
something thought-provoking or controversial. Or even to name and shame individuals who
post something stupid! It feels good to do that.
But NO! I shouldn’t do that. Because it’s rewarding the wrong behaviour. So I try to
pin comments that I would like to see more of, or that responded to my video in the way
I had hoped for. Again, you’re not going to like it, but
the top comments heavily influence the rest of them. Think of how you use Reddit. You
read the headline, and then jump to the comments section to see what people think about it.
Those top-rated comments WILL shape your judgement of whatever the story’s about. It makes
sense the same will apply to Youtube videos. A few years ago now, I went through my 50
most viewed videos and deleted anything negative or nasty that I could find, and pinned the
most positive. My plan was to return to it later to see if it had had a noticeable impact
on the quality of the comments my videos received, but I never did. Plus it’s difficult to
quantify the difference it made. But doing that started me on a positive-reinforcement
frenzy that I’ve continued to this day! I spend AS much time looking through comments
now as I ever have. I answer questions, engage in discussions, delete negative stuff, but
more importantly, I try to show my appreciation to those who post positive things.
Which is why I love Youtube’s ‘Heart’ feature. If I see a comment that’s interesting,
or simply nice and polite, I’ll ‘heart’ it. It doesn’t take much time for me to
do. I worry that it might even be seen as nothing more than a ‘tick’ to show I have
read your comment. I worry that if I overuse it, it will lose its importance. And I also
worry that it never had any to begin with. But it’s important to me. I reserve it for
comments that mean something to me. Let me tell you- you get a heart from me, you know
you’ve made my day a little bit better, that I’ve appreciated your comment and that
I want to thank you for it. Just without the cliched ‘Thank you’ response. I know the
‘like / dislike’ system on Youtube is a bit pointless, but I do my bit to like the
good ones and to dislike the negative ones to encourage the algorithm to favour the positive-
even if those that I’ve liked will never know it. But for particularly nice comments
that have clearly had some thought invested into them, I’ll give them a ‘heart’.
And for those particularly special comments, I’ll heart it and will also reply if I feel
my ‘heart’ needs more of an explanation. But a heart on its own is still good.
But here comes the cold, corporate reasoning again. I notice the Youtube comments algorithm
favours those I’ve ‘hearted’. If I get in there an hour after the video’s released
and ‘heart’ the best ones, they’ll typically rise to the top and will remain there as the
comments that will influence future ones. It’s a powerful tool. But I just want you
to know, it’s also my preferred way of responding to nice comments. You troll me, you get deleted.
Say something stupid, and I’ll treat you like you’re stupid. You say something that
I appreciate… I’ll give you a heart and maybe even a comment to go along with it!
Aim for the heart.