Follow the reactions in the comment sections on your social media platforms, and show your media’s presence by commenting and answering questions.
You get more and better interaction and engagement if the audience feels the comment sections is a conversation with the journalist and sources, and not just a place for fast comments that no one reads. It also has a calming effect on the sometimes polarising debate if there is a ‘host’ present to set the rules.
Especially the hours right after publishing a story, and even more so if the topic is polarising and/or the sources in the stories need to be protected.
Be aware of
The tone can sometimes be harsh and you need to be ready to respond or moderate the debate. Deleting comments are not the goal, but it can sometimes be necessary. Make a set of rules for your specific commentary sections and be transparent about what you expect from the conversation – and what is not tolerated.
Tips for students
Be a person, not an institution when answering questions in comment sections. Let people know that there are people sitting in the other end, so end with “Best wishes, Ben” instead of “Kind Regards, BBC”.