While content is definitely king, comments are currency in the online world where your contributions and the way you react to those of others are counted not only in your post ranking and comment count, but in the karmic way that others perceive you online. So how, then, can brands and those in charge of presences for brands balance the way they want those brands to be perceived in social with a system of moderation, acceptance, and reciprocity that breeds a better online reputation? Glad you asked…
Embrace different opinions. You can’t make everyone love you – that’s a fact. The best you can do is hope to have those people who don’t like your brand or that have a differing opinion respect you. You can do that by simply acknowledging their viewpoint and giving them the respect you ask for in return. If people never had other ideas about how things should be done, the world would be very different place. Welcome debate and welcome those ideas. You know what’s better than a brand advocate? A user who used to have a negative brand opinion who becomes a brand advocate. The only thing is, you can’t have those stories if you never let the negative stuff into the community.
Get personal. While negative or contradictory comments on posts aren’t bad, they do deserve a special touch. If you’re going to remove someone’s comment (or not let it hit the web at all), you should at least direct them to a reason why you chose to do so. If you simply delete all comments that are contrary to your points or critical of you brand, you’re not showing a true representation of the relationship you want to have with the community – one of mutual respect and conversation. It’s OK to reach out to someone and talk with them – just like real life. You never know, they might just start seeing things from a new perspective.
There's a lot of gray on the internet. Context ends up being the biggest factor in determning whether or not to leave a comment or engage with a user. What type of place is the comment in? What sort of slang do users in the community use? Are they being sarcastic? It's hard to say "we're just going to axe every word that is ______" because you might actually be depriving the community of great content simply because of one tiny word. For that reason, we work with our clients to help them understand the value each comment brings to a community, then we focus on what sorts of things shouldn't be there.
At the end of the day, social media and the web in general are places that were built on different ideas. Forums, from the very beginning, were places where different solutions and ideas were discussed. Now, with social media, the chances of people being able to have great conversations are growing exponentially, but those conversations are at risk of being stifled if brands aren’t willing to relinquish total control and have real interactions on the web.Image via http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-DLNCKc3Mfkg/TXZ1_is533I/AAAAAAAACHw/b24mThSmXzE/s1600/ban-hammer-featured1.jpg