A number of organizations have yet to dive headfirst into social media applications for the dread of the negative or offensive feedback that could result. The fear seems centered on the fact that there is an ease of use within these social applications where anyone can (and will!) say anything about anyone.
To give these fears credit, I have seen a number of ignorant responders in the social media world be it blogs, Facebook, Twitter or even message boards. There is always going to be that one person who has to come in and say ridiculous things with no apparent foundation for an argument.
HOWEVER, allowing the apprehension to consume a corporation just because of a few immature kids is completely counter-productive. The list of arguments for a company to utilize social media far exceeds the length of its counter.
In addition, I would argue that, with the exception of the occasional “troll,” negative comments are great to have for any company. From a PR standpoint, it allows the company to host a two-way discussion directly with their stakeholders.
In a post on Socialnomics titled, “Negative Feedback is Not Bad,” Eric Qualman says that although “there will be negative feedback no matter how good your company or product is,” there are definitely some great things that come from any form of customer feedback:
“a) free information about potential product/service deficiencies
b) gives them a chance to correct the problem
c) it’s an opportunity to shine with the customer in a public forum by listening & responding
d) creates a seamless path to have an ongoing conversation with the customer”
This is Public Relations at its best.
Even though it is not always fun, companies need to “get out there” and stop being a faceless entity. Some of the best twitter accounts I have run into are of businesses that actually respond, react and discuss with their followers like Rula Bula here in Tempe.
So what should you do if you get offensive comments? It WILL happen, but as PR practitioners shouldn’t we host discussions with our companies or clients about how to respond to over-the-top comments that aren’t disgruntled stakeholders, but 14-year-olds trying to cause a scene? Will your readers, listeners, followers get angry and say you’re over-censoring? Of course not, nobody finds any merit or worth in those types of comments.
Jennifer Mattern at the Naked PR Blog listed a few suggestions as to when it might be OK for a company to remove comments in her post, “Derogatory Customer Feedback Online: Should Your Company Delete It?”
“1. Does the poster want an actual, and personal, solution to the problem or are they bitching just to bitch?
2. Is the language inappropriate for your site (or profile)?
3. Is it libelous?
4. Is it really a derogatory comment?”
So, is it ever okay to delete a user’s comments? Or is that taking away first amendment rights? Are there further additions you would add in an argument about how negative comments (the non-offensive kind) are actually a good thing for companies? Or do you think companies should just stay away from social media altogether?