Brand Censorship in Online Forums

With brands interacting with consumers via social media, customer opinions are more public than ever and not all of them are positive. Now brands are faced with a dilemma: Do you delete any comments that may tarnish your image? Or do you leave them for the world to see?

Carol Billingsley writes a social media blog and suggests that the number one way to handle this type of situation is to simply apologize for the situation and offer a solution to correct the problem. That is likely how you would handle the situation if they were right in front of you, so why not use the same approach over social media? This also displays to your other customers, who are following the conversation that you do care and are sincere in trying to solve the problem.

Sometimes the comments are stating the truth, but it is not the most positive either. In that situation it is probably not the best idea to simply delete any comments because they may tarnish your brand image. It probably isn’t a surprise that people would get upset if their comments were deleted, feeling suppressed that they aren’t allowed to express their freedom of speech. Then they might start another conversation with your brand publicly asking “Why did you delete my comment?” And of course that opens a whole other can of worms for you to deal with. It is also very likely that someone has taken a screen shot of the offending comments and follows the saying: Once something is on the internet, it is there forever.

There is an example of a dress shop that wasn’t treating its customers with the service that was expected. Many spoke out against them and started conversations about the situation. Now this particular business probably didn’t respond to the complaints in the best way, and this started an even bigger conversation. People inevitably took screen shots to preserve the conversations as there were comments made by customers that weren’t desirable. If you go to their Facebook page now, it was actually deleted and then re-created with none of the original complaints anywhere to be found.

But despite their effort to remove the offending information, the unfortunate memory and tainted perceptions still exist in the customer’s mind. This particular brand’s image is tarnished forever. So ultimately it is up to each brand to decide what their plan of action is for negative comments on internet discussions, but as examples demonstrate, certain responses can have very negative repercussions.

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