Most enlightened brands have by now figured out rule number one: Don't delete negative comments. But another class of comments, those touting commercial products or services, can present challenges to companies as they try to strike the right balance between nurturing a conversation with a community and maintaining a brand experience.
A quick perusal of Facebook (images below) indicates that quite a few brands, such as Singapore Airlines, Raffles Hotel, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore's Health Promotion Board and KFC, have chosen to never hide or filter comments.
Natasha Zhao, principal consultant at Blugrapes, said many brands still place a higher priority on content generation and dissemination than on the policing portion of running a social-media presence.
“Ideally, brands should also place a priority on policing procedures and processes to ensure that their pages don't result in becoming a propagation point for objectionable content,” she said.
While experts agree that irrelevant and commercial comments can spoil the newsfeed experience, they have mixed views on whether these comments should be removed, as some argue that common community wisdom applies.
Either action—leaving the comment or removing it—has an impact on the community, said Simon Kemp, managing director at We Are Social. So the brand or community manager will have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the comment is relevant to some extent.
On its own sites, Kemp said, the agency will remove comments that are clearly not relevant, or those related to a competitor site. “If it is relevant, we will find ways to weave it into a better story," he said.
Gerard Lim, chief operating officer at XM Asia-Pacific, said brands should place trust and responsibility in their followers versus playing a ‘big-brother’ role.
“Unless, the comments obviously offend, defame, harass or run contrary to societal/cultural norms, the conversations should flow within an ‘honour’ system that self-regulates itself,” he added. “After all, the web provides democracy for all and therefore, responsibility by all. Not just big brands.”
Zhao noted that brands should first map out the ideal state of their Facebook community before discussing the removal of comments as that exercise will subsequently define the rules of engagement to determine what comments are deemed acceptable or unacceptable. A community/page policy should be drafted and published for users to be aware of.
“However, I have seen more magnanimous brands who believe in fostering genuine communities and need not have that tight reign over what users post," she said. These brands allow user-generated ads, as long as the products touted are relevant to their members, are from a legitimate business, and do not appear too frequently on the page.
Three basic rules in maintaining Facebook pages
By Kimberley Olsen, head of business development, Vocanic Singapore