The Social Media Newsroom Part 3: Comments

This is the third instalment in my 5-part series about Social Media Newsrooms – to read more about the series read my introductory article here.

Parts 3, 4 and 5 of this series will look at some specific suggestions for things you can do to make your newsroom social, with some good and bad examples of where other companies have done so.  Today I’m having a look at comments, Part 4 will be about using the newsroom to support your social channels and in part 5 I will look at how to make your content more personal.

When looking at how to bring in some two-way dialogue to a company’s newsroom one obvious place to start with is allowing members of the public, or the specific community you are targeting, to post their thoughts, comments and questions on your site in response to your news pieces, blog posts and even press releases.

However, one thing I really don’t like to see on a corporate newsroom or blog is spammy comments!  If you see a blog that has comments that are clearly spam lingering around on their site for days, weeks or even longer what does it say to you?  What it says to me is that there is clearly no-one moderating the site and probably no-one actually bothering to read what people are saying in the comments.

Comments spam and ignored questions – HP blogs

HP has a pretty-looking blog site that is actually a hub pulling together a number of blogs on various topics.

But are they really taking the comments seriously or is this just another gimmick?  Take a look at this post title “Answering your questions”.  Ironically, given the title of the post, no-one has bothered to reply to the people who posted questions in the comments in response to this post.  The last post here from “leo” is clearly spam trying to get some link juice from the HP site (and if you look around other posts you’ll find plenty of spam).  What do you conclude by looking at these comments?  HP isn’t really paying any attention to the community on their site…

Allowing comments and responding to them – Microsoft Hardware Blog

Microsoft have a vast array of blogs on a variety of topics nicely laid out with a summary of the latest posts.  Not all blogs allow comments and you do find the occasional spam but what I like about many of these blogs is that Microsoft does actually respond to the comments people post.

Microsoft Hardware Blog Imagehttp://www.microsofthardwareblog.com/we-want-your-feedback/

This shows a much more genuine attempt to use comments as a way of engaging with people through the site.

How much freedom should people be given to say what they want? Should negative comments be allowed?

This is a tricky question to answer and a lot depends on both the wider culture of a company and also on regulatory requirements.  Aside from preventing abusive posts, spam, blatant self-promotion or links to indecent or illegal content, how far a company goes in allowing people to air their views is really a matter of discretion.

One really interesting example of a company that takes a very tolerant approach to comments on their own site is General Electric.

Take a look at this post about the nuclear meltdown in Japan after the Tsunami and the role that GE played in tackling the crisis.  There are over 111 comments in response to this article, many go beyond negative and are quite damning, it doesn’t really get much worse than being blamed for a nuclear disaster, does it?

The people posting are a broad mix with some people claiming to be engineers and even nuclear experts themselves.  GE have not responded to individual comments but it is interesting to see how commentators with differing views interact with each other.

Do these posts damage GE’s reputation?  GE obviously don’t think so.  Everyone coming to the site first reads GE’s official statement and there are links to other information and posts from GE about the issue on this site.  The community that has developed on this site has also developed a degree of self-correction with individual posters correcting the most blatantly erroneous statements from other posters and there is quite a lively debate about how to tackle the nuclear problems in Japan and the pros and cons of nuclear energy more generally.

There isn’t the usual level of spam, off-topic posts or self-promotion on this site which suggests to me that someone from GE is moderating comments.  Meaning that these negative posts are not there simply because no-one has noticed.

Now the question is, would you let someone say this about your company on your blog?

Comment from a member of the public on GE Reports blog

But look also how the community on the site supply each other with information.  There are a lot of well informed commentators taking part in the discussion.

Comment in GE Reports Blog

I will be interested to hear people’s thoughts on whether such an approach is good for GE but what you can’t deny is that this is ‘social’ in a real sense and also quite ‘brave’ of GE to permit such criticism in a space they control.

In the next part of the series I will be looking at how to use your newsroom to facilitate conversations in other channels.  Thanks for reading!

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