Why You Should Never Delete Negative Comments

Transparency.

It’s one of those words that has almost become synonymous with social media. So much so that communicators are starting to get sick of hearing it (re: Ragan.com’s list of the “Top 10 Most Overused Words in Social Media“). However, no matter how “overused” it may be it still has value for companies in the blogosphere.

Transparency gains trust. And trust is one of the most important aspects in relationships with constituents. So how can companies be transparent online? There are many different ways to do so, which include having a designated company blogger, speaking candidly on company policies, and even owning up to corporate missteps. This post focuses on comments; specifically why companies should never delete negative ones.

It’s typical to receive complaints. As the post “Corporate Blogging Do’s and Don’ts” points out, allowing these complaints and then responding to them honestly will cause your company’s credibility to rise. Think about it: a blog with only positive comments praising the company just looks fake. There should be room for both praise and criticism of the company, its products, or even its policies. Also take note that if some complaints keep reoccurring then it’s a sign that there’s a larger problem you need to fix corporately.

In an interview with Ragan’s PR Daily, SAS explained their philosophy behind transparency and commenting. According to Jim Davis, the senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of SAS, blogging is built on trust. He points out that incorrect controversial comments will get corrected by the by the community without intervention. At the same time, however, true controversial comments will gain supporters also voicing their concerns. These are the negative comments companies need to pay attention to; the comments are pointing out problems that need to be fixed.

Posting and responding to negative comments can actually help you gain more customers. According to Research Brief, the Retail Consumer Report from this January, 18% of consumers have turned into loyal customers after receiving responses from retailers to their posted complaints or negative reviews online. Doesn’t seem like a large enough percentage? Just remember: that’s still 18% of customers you would’ve lost without any response. Responding can also promote positive reviews. In the same report, it was found that 33% of disgruntled customers who had received responses later posted positive reviews. Also, 34% eventually deleted the original review.

Finally, how does this all tie into ethics? Look back to the six guidelines presented in the Social Media Code of Ethics from the first post. Numbers 2-5 (welcome criticism, respond to comments quickly and appropriately, be credible and transparent, deal with errors honestly) all relate. Following these guidelines and the suggestions set forth in this post is to act ethically online.

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Ghost Blogging

A recent class discussion on CEO blogging brought the topic of ghost blogging to my attention and lead me to further research the subject.

First off, I feel that a simple definition of ghost blogging is necessary. It is the practice of writing blog posts for others and is becoming increasingly common in the corporate blog world.

Why does this happen? Executives may not have the time to write their own posts, they may be terrible writers, or they may not be well versed enough in one particular aspect of the company to feel that they can construct a meaningful post. Although this may seem like a great idea for your organization, there is a huge debate going on about whether it’s an ethical practice or not.

All of the key points in the debate are articulated in an excellent podcast by Six Degrees of Separation. The host of the podcast, Mitch Joel, argues against ghost blogging (and ghost microblogging on Twitter) whereas Mark W. Schaefer, author of the popular post “Why it’s ridiculous to argue about ghost blogging” plays devil’s advocate and argues for the corporate use of ghost blogging. To make the 40-minute podcast simple here’s the basic bullet points from the arguments:

PROS (Schaefer):

  • Allows executives to express their opinions and give a public face to the company even if they do not have the time in their schedule to blog themselves.
  • Some CEOs may be terrible writers. Expressing themselves in writing may not be their expertise.
  • Opinions and statements can be monitored and controlled through a ghost writer. There is less risk involved of the CEO saying something out of line.
  • Usually chairmen don’t write their own speeches; so what is the difference between that and blogs? It’s a well known practice that usually isn’t questioned by the public.
  • Along the same lines, CEOs may see personal connections and community as lesser aspects of their jobs. These then take a backseat to other tasks.

CONS (Joel):

  • Social media is all about transparency. If it is found out that your CEO isn’t actually authoring his own blog then your company will lose credibility.
  • Ghost bloggers ultimately do not know as much about your company as the CEO. For a wider knowledge base on all things your company it is better for the CEO to blog.

Note: While it may seem like the pros outweigh the cons, remember the worth of transparency, credibility, and trust in your company by publics.

Another post by blogger and PR professional, Gini Dietrich, summarizes the two points of views from the podcast and gives the arguments greater contexts. As she points out, one of the main reasons for the differences of opinions lies in the fact that Joel works with much larger companies than Schaefer.

Smaller companies may not know exactly how to go about blogging or using any form of social media and for that reason would hire another company to do it for them. In Gini Dietrich’s own experience she has found that, generally, regardless of the amount of coaxing and preparation given, smaller executives just won’t make the time to blog. Instead, she ghost blogs for her clients but makes sure she includes their views. She does this by talking to the CEO at least once every week and then creates the post from this conversation. However, she always sends the drafts to the clients first for approval and editing and finds that they usually end up changing at least a few sentences of their own in the post. She also stresses that questions on the posts need to be answered directly by the CEO; her company will not respond to the community for them. In this way Dietrich believes she has found a middle ground with the ethics of ghost blogging.

Brandjacking

According to a recent article, the brand protection service MarkMonitor has recently released a new report on the instances of brandjacking online. This report states that brandjacking takes 28% of all branded search terms online. What does that mean? When a user searches for a specifically branded product, say Lacoste shirts, 28% of the results are actually from other companies making fake Lacoste products.  The most frequent instances of this, called brandjacking, occurred in the luxury brands industry and the sports apparel industry.

Why is this a problem? Well, to begin, brandjacking pertains to anything that uses the likeness of a brand, company, or even person for personal gain. So this means that someone else could be using your company’s logo to make a profit for themselves (like the Lacoste shirt example). Essentially your company is losing profits because your customers are buying fake products from someone else.

However, brandjacking doesn’t stop just with fake products. Cypersquatting, or purchasing domain names similar to brand’s real web addresses to either sell false products or to gain revenue in pay-per-click advertising, is still on the rise. It is important to note that cybersquatting doesn’t just happen to well-known companies; it can happen to anyone. A recent example from Pittsburgh shows that cypersquatting can even occur in the service industry – a plumber was using his competitor’s domain name to direct traffic to his own website. The plumber was eventually found guilty in court and forced to pay up to $100,000 in damages to his competitor.

Phishing is yet another form of brandjacking. These are online email scams made to look like legitimate companies such as Mastercard or Visa in an effort to gain your personal information such as credit card numbers. Phishing is generally referred to as identity theft, however, it is also a form of brandjacking because the phishers use the guise of a legitimate company to create falsely branded emails and websites. Consumers can easily fall for the scam without careful criticism of the website or email. According to an article in PR Newswire, both companies and customers should be on the lookout for phishing scams. The article points out that banks, credit card companies, and other businesses would never send requests for account numbers, logins, or passwords through email and would only request such information on their secure websites.

All of these forms of brandjacking go against the number one rule online: transparency. Deceptive practices are the complete opposite to corporate transparency. As such, companies cannot ethically conduct business online while engaging in these practices.