A thicker skinDon't delete online criticism. Embrace it.

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First posted on ReadWriteWeb

So it’s happened again: a company comes under fire for some misdeed — per­ceived or actual — and gets a few crit­ical com­ments on their Face­book Page. And their crisis com­mu­nic­a­tions strategy is to pour gas­oline on that little flame by deleting those comments.

The latest folks to do this are the people at Chap­Stick, who ran a print ad that offended a few folks. Those critics posted their com­plaints on ChapStick’s Face­book page (most of them quite civil). ChapStick’s page admin­is­trators then deleted the com­ments; this case adds an ironic new wrinkle because of the ad copy pointing people to their Face­book pres­ence, which reads “Be heard.”

After enduring a torrent of cri­ti­cism for deleting the cri­ti­cism, Chap­Stick posted an apology for the ad and a sort-of explan­a­tion for deleting the com­ments, saying they follow Face­book guidelines and “remove posts that use foul lan­guage, have repet­itive mes­saging, those that are con­sidered spam-like (mul­tiple posts from a person within a short period of time) and are men­acing to fans and employees.” Which, with most of the com­ments, wasn’t the case.

It seems to bear repeating: brands, learn to take some cri­ti­cism on your social web pres­ences. Why? Because…

  • Accus­a­tions of sup­pressing those com­ments are often more dam­aging than the ori­ginal cri­ti­cisms themselves.
  • The pres­ence of crit­ical com­ments gives the con­ver­sa­tion hap­pening on your Face­book Page, blog or other pres­ence a sense of authen­ti­city. That means the pos­itive user com­ments carry more weight than they would if your site had nothing but obsequious flattery.
  • A crit­ical comment can be an oppor­tunity for engage­ment on your part. It’s your chance to answer a cri­ti­cism, resolve a com­plaint, correct some mis­in­form­a­tion. And you may be catching a little issue before it becomes a much bigger one.
  • A crit­ical comment can be an spur to par­ti­cip­a­tion and con­ver­sa­tion by your com­munity. Let’s face it; for most brands and organ­iz­a­tions, excess par­ti­cip­a­tion usually isn’t the problem with their Face­book pages.

So maybe it’s time to learn to love the neg­ative. A thicker skin not only saves you from the sting of a little cri­ti­cism; it can let you realize from genuine benefit… and keep you from becoming the latest high-profile case study in why comment dele­tion can backfire.

(manager to employee) I'm fine with negative comments on our blog, as long as they're deleted immediately.


Lee Down says

November 8, 2011 - 7:58pm

I run a number of pages, and one in particular is rather large and active. On occasion I post a statement that I pull out of whatever thoughts might be occupying my time. Ironically, there have been occasions where people have taken issue with something I posted. I'm always surprised, particularly since nothing I do on that page is meant to be derogatory when I post it. But like you've said, once people start posting their criticism, it begins a very active thread of participation from the crowd, both good and bad. What a great sign that is; to see that the page is being seen, is being read regularly, and appreciated enough for people to get involved with controversy.

Lucid Gal says

November 9, 2011 - 6:40am

People who make negative comments on your blog or Facebook page are 1) giving you an opportunity to show how great you are in the way you answer a complaint, or 2) showing themselves to be jerks, causing your fans to rally to your side. More at http://www.getlucid.net/2010/09/i-hate-you-and-5-reasons-you-really-shouldnt-mind/

Leah Mackey says

November 9, 2011 - 7:30am

Thank you for this post. I am sharing with my team and also some of my clients who still don't quite "get it."

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