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Should You Delete Negative Comments?

Social Media branding is a fickle mistress; who sleeps with a gun under her pillow. When staring down the barrel of a negative comment, brands have to choose whether to embrace or delete. One of these choices often comes with a bullet. The other usually does not.

This is a topic that continues to plague brands on a daily basis. It seems so cut and dry on the surface, but our intrinsic nature as humans drives us to protect ourselves at all costs. And sometimes this knee-jerk, misguided act of protectionism leads to more harm than good.

A recent example involves Indiana’s Fair Oaks Farms. The farm posted a well-intentioned artist rendering of a new swine facility dubbed “Fair Oaks Farm Pig Adventure”. The image shows a family looking out over an idyllic pig enclosure.

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Shortly after the picture was posted, several proponents of humane/sustainable farming began to thoughtfully comment on the apparent factory-farmed conditions being depicted. Within minutes several voices in defense of Fair Oaks Farms joined in, and a full-fledged, constructive and cordial debate began. That is until Fair Oaks Farms chose to start deleting comments from the sustainable camp while liking and praising the comments that favored the farm.

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This was a missed opportunity on several levels. An opportunity to educate the nay-sayers on how the farm plans to raise the pigs. An opportunity to let the farm’s loyal fans rally to their defense (which they were doing quite well). An opportunity to show the farm truly believes their “we have nothing to hide” philosophy. But the opportunity was missed, and the people who were silenced quickly took their voices to the digital streets known as Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds where thousands of their friends and followers learned of the situation and began to rally.

If Fair Oaks Farm had chosen to be patient and allow for the conversation to play out, the attention on the issue would have been quietly contained to the five or six people who were initially involved. This small group would have grown weary and quickly moved on; feeling satisfied by the debate on the Fair Oaks Farms Facebook page. But deleting comments and blocking users is like gas to a fire. And fire spreads. Within minutes, a Facebook post about the farm’s deletion practices had already racked-up 50 comments.

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Conversations about your brand will take place with or without you. If given a choice, choose to be part of the conversation instead of negatively driving it to a forum you have no access to. Stay calm and assess the situation before reacting. Then engage in a meaningful way. This method can convert customers, and stands a much better chance of blowing over.

So, the next time your brand is staring down the barrel of a negative comment, will you take a bullet or embrace the opportunity it brings?

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