by Ron Daly
A while back, the credit union Twittersphere had a conversation about blog comments and whether a blog is really a "blog" if it doesn't allow any feedback.
"A blog without comments is still a blog, it's all about frequency of posting," some said. "A blog without comments might as well be a static web page," said others. Good examples on either side, but my question was always, "why block comments?"
So...why block comments? I think I know why. It's because someone might say something bad.
I've heard a lot of hubbub about "negative feedback" in the past five years. With the emergence of social media and the acceptance of blogging as a medium, people immediately skim over all the basics and jump right in on asking, "What if someone says something negative?"
What if, indeed?
The Monsters Are IN the Bed
The idea of "monsters under the bed" isn't new to any parents out there...we've all had to check for them at some point. We know the truth, but if it makes our little ones feel safer? Sure, we'll check. We'll put in a nightlight, or we'll buy an extra teddy bear. We'll make sleep possible and, hopefully, lasting.
When the "monsters" are not monsters but are instead an unsatisfied member? Don't worry about them being there or not being there. They're there. There IS a monster there, not under the bed, but in the bed. The question is, do you want to DEAL with the monster or PRETEND it isn't there?
I think the term of choice for bloggers/social media managers/marketing people who consciously ignore bad feedback or go out of their way to hide it is "tone deaf". I also think there's something really sad about wanting to "go after" commenters or social media users who say something negative. Want to see where that gets you? Read this story about Boners BBQ attacking someone for leaving a bad Yelp review [ABC News].
And while we're on the topic, what about social media from INSIDE the workplace? "We don't want people saying anything that might make us non-compliant!"
And you manage that...how? Turning off social media? You turn off social media on their network, that's not going to stop anyone from doing something anti-compliant from home or on their phone.
"What if they complain about the credit union or our members?" So, let me get this straight - that's something you DO NOT want to know about, AT ALL?
Monster Resistant, Not Monster Proof
The truth about business is, you'll never make everyone happy. You'll make some people really happy, you'll be fine with a lot of people, and you'll get a couple of folks good and angry. Getting the angry folks back on your side isn't a matter of just throwing money at them - sometimes, complaints and gripes are solved through careful evaluation.
Let's run this down:
- The complaint is anonymous and full of cuss words - Probably not something you need to burn a lot of energy working on, as it's just some punk playing with your comment fields or being a jerk on Twitter or Facebook. Moving on...
- The complaint is angry, but seems to be about a genuine problem and has an email address attached - Why not reach out to that person via their email and ask them more about the problem? For every one of these complaints you get, you're probably not hearing several more; this complaint might actually solve a problem you've been overlooking.
- The complaint is addressing a very specific problem, relative to that member - Then deal with it and follow up with that member, who will be VERY appreciative of your time and attention.
- There are sixty complaints, all dealing with the same problem - Odds are, unless you are a top ten credit union with billions and billions in assets, you won't have enough members for this level of feedback. But if you find yourself dealing with a mob scene on your blog, figure out where they're coming from - who's got a good point, who's just gloming on, who's a defender of the brand.
I think that's the worst part of the decision to completely block out feedback - this idea that you're holding back a tidal wave of negative people saying negative things. We've run this blog for about three years now and we've never had seventy comments to moderate at once. We do moderate, one comment at a time, and we post the ones that meet all our guidelines. Haven't seen our guidelines page? Here it is. Go look at it. That's been here from day one.
As for social media, we take our own medicine - we use Social Sentry. It tracks social media usage on your office network, public and private, and also tracks public posts from users outside of the office all the time. When I, as the admin, see social media use I don't think is fit for the network, I intervene. When I see an account I want to follow, I follow that account and I get their public feed. I don't spend a lot of time worrying because I stay on top of things. Better than being in the blind, right?
Managing the expectations and the reactions of members is easy. Just be clear, be consciencious, and be fair. When a problem arises, solve it. But don't think ignoring comments or completely disallowing them will stop people from talking about you.
Be in charge of your repuation.