Honesty (in social media) is the best policy

One of the big differences about social media compared to other communication channels is that it is very open and transparent. Take Twitter for example, many messages are exchanged openly as if they are emails between two people, yet that would previously have been communication undertaken using email.

And forums such as Facebook groups where companies encourage the creation of fan communities thrive on allowing open and free discussion. Have you seen any successful Facebook community where the ‘fans’ are not allowed to post their own entries into the discussion? Discussion groups that are really just one-way channels for pushing a corporate message just don’t work.

But if honesty and transparency are essential for making all this online discussion work well, what do you do when someone starts making comments that you would rather not see in your company forum?

The first thing to do is to have a control strategy, a set of measures allowing you to judge how to respond to anything the customers or fans say in your public forums. A very simple set of controls might be:

  • Is the comment abusive, threatening, dangerous? Then copy an image of it, report the user to the social network in question, and delete the comment.
  • Does the comment contain questionable language… profanities, racist or other unacceptable comments? Delete the comment and possibly bar the user from the forum.
  • Is the comment critical of your company in a way that is not logical… a rant without foundation? Take no action – just leave it there.
  • Is the comment critical of you with some specific reason? Answer the criticism publicly, or if it is too complex or involves personal details then answer it with an invitation for a way to carry on the conversation in private.

These are just a few scenarios, but as you can see, there is a big difference between abuse and criticism. It’s always worth engaging with customers, even if they are complaining about your products – great engagement may well turn some of the critics into fans!

Honest Ed's


Photo by Alfred Hermida licensed under Creative Commons

This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Customer Service, Human Resources, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Honesty (in social media) is the best policy

  1. Eptica says:

    Very true Julia and I’d add that how you respond to comments on social media is also vital. Just posting responses in corporate language won’t help you engage with your community – as O2 has shown on Twitter you get a much better reaction if you take the time to use the same language that they do. More in the Eptica blog at http://eptica.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/dealing-with-rude-customers-lessons-from-o2/

    • Julia Gibbs says:

      Thank you for this comment and I agree about using the same language in social responses – empathising – we all want to be treated as individuals. Will read your blog too!

  2. Thanks Julia – do let us know what you think!

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