How to Censor Your Social Media and Still Thrive at Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Online Marketing, Social Action, Social Media Aug 15, 2015 No Comments

Twitter, Facebook and Social Change

Recently we’ve shared some posts focused on how inventive marketers are using social media channels as a method to effect social change and generate awareness for cause-related efforts. Examples of these uses of Twitter and Facebook are numerous, read CreativeBurn posts How Twitter and Tats Will Change the World and Nikki Reed and MTV Want You to “Give-A-___” (some people don’t like us using the “S” word…).

But with the ongoing UK riots continuing, the discussion of how to control social media channels during times of civil unrest has once again been raised again; this time in Parliament. Which causes us to ponder the results of censorship activities in our social communities.

To Blackout Twitter or Not to Blackout?

English Prime Minister David Cameron recently raised the generally uncomfortable specter of censorship when he suggested that social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and mobile messaging systems could be faced with restrictions or blackouts during times of civil unrest when it has been determined that demonstrators were using such channels to communicate and organize. A few weeks ago, here in Chicago, it was reported that mobs of teenagers were allegedly using Twitter and other instant messaging apps to organize and coordinate en masse attacks on random citizens at high-visibility, high-traffic locations like the Michigan Avenue shipping district and the Chicago lakefront, the latter causing police to forcible close several Chicago beaches.

Social Commentary vs. the Common Good

The topic of censorship is that forever-cliched “slippery slope” to most in Western society where any talk of restricting individual rights is generally met with opposition. But where do we draw the line between the use of social media channels and potential censorship of our online communities? Is there a place where the so-called “common good” takes precedence over the passions of change seekers? Do we want to nurture communities while restricting the free exchange of negative ideas?

Is it Time to Censor Social Media?

While it’s not our intention to discuss politics, this idea of online community censorship is something worth talking about. As creative brand chaperones, social media gurus and community managers, our agency is keenly aware of the issues surrounding word-of-mouth marketing. And as such, we think it’s necessary to address the topic of censoring social media channels, while defining what this means when it comes to subjects of law, the general order of things, our society and our online communities.

Community Management is Not for the Weak of Heart

The concept of moderating communities isn’t a new one to anyone interacting with customers via either open social media channels or private online consumer communities. The potential for consumers to openly post unrestricted, unmoderated, unobstructed feedback strikes fear in even the most capable community manager. Grey Matter has worked on many social initiatives directly for our own clients as well as those of our strategic partners. And the decision whether or not to moderate — generally considered a “politically-correct” term for censorship — comes up often.

The threat of having potentially negative feedback posted by community members for all the world to see, is often a tough pill to swallow for those unfamiliar with social media. When discussing topics of negative feedback, we’ve seen the color drain from the faces of jittery clients and trained marketing professionals alike. Our professional counsel has always been to focus on the primary goal of the community. What is the true intent of your social media marketing initiatives? This should always be to champion open, honest and genuine interaction with members wherever you find them.

Censorship is Never Good Practice, Much Less Best Practice

There’s nothing that sinks the heart of a brand manager more quickly than reading a scathing review on Yelp or a brand-killing report of a customer service experience gone wrong on Google Places. No matter the situation you find yourself in, the most successful approach is to tackle the negativity head-on, in an open forum and resolve the issue to the best of your ability. As a general rule, we never encourage the censoring of member posts.

Negative reviews, less-than-positive commentary or other potentially damaging feedback should be viewed as an opportunity to change opinions about your brand. When members see you’re involved, that you engage unflattering issues directly and are actually working on real solutions, your respect level increases exponentially.

Negativity will happen. But never ever ignore this feedback or remove these posts, even if you have the ability to do so. There’s nothing worse than having an unflattering post languish unanswered; this is your opportunity to effect your own version of change. Even worse than that is having members read a negative post one day, then have it been silently “disappeared” the next. Don’t run your communities like a banana republic dictator. Such activities will kill your efforts faster than ice melting on pavement in Tucson in July.

Establish Rules of Engagement

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. Some include your taking action on personal attacks aimed at community members, or the use of highly inappropriate language, or the posting of patently objectionable or illegal material. A good rule of thumb in these instances is to ensure you handle these situations appropriately, while adequately explaining your actions to remove offensive materials or squash personal attacks. The more open you are with your members, and the more honesty you share, the more they will ultimately respect you.

Best practice to effectively manage a private community is to develop and post rules governing acceptable behavior. And outline the results or penalties for breaking the rules. Most people welcome these guidelines, and will likely help you police inappropriate activity. Everyone wants a safe, drama-free environment in which gather. It’s your role as community manager to give them the tools to do so.

If the Goal for Your Community is to Fail, then Go Ahead and Censor Member Feedback. You Won’t be Around to Have the Problem for Very Long

Long story short. For any brand seeking committed open, honest and genuine communication, negative feedback should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a deal breaker. While negative comments will happen, this is your chance to resolve any issues. Your community will see that you’re as invested in them as they are in you. Embrace the unflattering. And never ever ever ever censor your members.

So, to answer the question: How can you censor your social media channels and thrive at your word of mouth marketing efforts? You can’t. And you won’t. Choosing this plan will seal your fate, sooner than you ever expected.

Related posts:

  1. How to Monitor Your Social Media Campaigns in 30 Minutes or Less
  2. Social Media: Welcome to the Hotel California. You Can Never Leave.
  3. Social Media Audits: Why Give Them Away for Free?
  4. A Crash Course in Social Media that’s Both Fast and Free!
  5. How Twitter and Tats Will Change the World
No Responses to “How to Censor Your Social Media and Still Thrive at Word-of-Mouth Marketing”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.