Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Corporate Comment Control

JB3 raises a very interesting issue in his comment on my earlier post about Strategic Marketing:

“It can do all those great things, but the problem as I see it is, if companies control the content of a blog. What if someone is posting legitimate problems or outcomes with a product or service? Should the company be allowed to erase that from their blog?”

Clearly the blog owner is responsible for the content on their blog and there is no issue in my mind that moderating out profanity and unnecessary bad attitude is totally acceptable. Shel Israel calls it his “living room comment policy”.

For me there is also an issue when it comes to subject matter, if I am discussing a topic- because this is what I know about i.e. marketing, and someone joins my conversation and starts discussing something I know nothing about (i.e. football) or where it seems totally irrelevant to my topic - I'd say it was reasonable to at least question the relevance with the commenter before publishing. Fortunately I haven't had to do this - nor do I really expect to have to do this on my personal blog.

However in a large corporation it is reasonable to expect that an engineering department in Europe would know nothing about customer service in North America. (Not even considering the fact that many multinationals have various siloed product divisions under one brand). I don't think it’s appropriate for commenters to expect to be published if they try to address their North American service issues in a European technology discussion.

Nevertheless if I was a corporate blogger and I received off topic comments I'd certainly be forwarding those remarks off line to those capable of responding. The important thing here is for corporate blogs to be clear of their mandate, their scope of conversation and their ability to respond. It comes back to setting expectations for your readership. However as a corporate blogger you need to build trust with your readers, it would be unwise to moderate comments on matters you are clearly involved with, your responsiveness and openness are vital to maintain credibility.

It is also interesting to note that it is only about 1 in 500 readers on my blog that actually make a comment – (and I hear that is on the high side) - so a good question is: how appropriate is it for a vocal minority to potentially shift the conversation off the blog or post topic.

I’d revert back to Shel’s analogy of the living room, however justified the person may feel in making their comment isn’t it a question of manners and how a participant goes about building a relationship. Those that are not interested in a relationship and just want to rant or get sensational should not be made welcome. How different are these approaches for the example I created with a corporate technology blog focussed on Europe -

"When are you guys going to fix my problem, you just can't get your act together and I am fed up beating my head against a brick wall here in North America"

"Excuse me do you know how I can get help with my service issue in North America, I can't find any other blog or individual to talk too on this subject?"

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