“Facebook and Twitter are a waste of time.” How often have you heard that from a business perspective? Almost every time I talk to a business about their website development project and related online marketing, talk turns to Facebook. Sometimes it also turns to Twitter, but not with the same compelling tone. Businesses may not like the thought of involving Facebook in their marketing mix, they may fear it, but they are beginnging realise that it is essential. The biggest fears I am hearing are, what do we do with negative comments, and the fear of personal information being available to fans. Both of these fears can be addressed.

However, if businesses want to capitalise on the ubiquitousness that is Facebook in the lives of a significant market, then the risks that exist in consumer created content needs to tackled head on. Peer recommendation is powerful for Australian business. Nothing quite influences a purchasing decision like social proof that value is present in a product or service. Potential customers become purchasers when they are confident their investment is not misplaced and their confidence is reinforced by the recommendation of a friend/s or relative/s.

The fear of negative comments is stopping many business from engaging in social media and two-way conversation that it facilitates. To counter this fear (as many business believe they cannot control negative comments) I categorise negative comments as being either constructive criticism, which is an opportunity, or vandalism (which should be removed). It is important that businesses are authentic with their customer engagement and deleting anything that contains a negative can be perceived as hiding from issues in the business and censoring legitimate feedback.

I believe it is fine for business to simply delete blatant vandalism, if the comments contain swearing, are irrational or aggressive, it is likely that there is no real or legitimate criticism. It may even be a case of competitor sabotage or personal vendetta! If there is offensive graffiti on the front window of your business, the first thing you do is wash it off right? I see no difference in deleting irrational sledging comments from your blog or Facebook wall. Your audience will appreciate it rather than be critical, and the experience of engaging with your business is enhanced.

Not all comments are irrational sledges however, some are legitimate comments from an unfortunate experience. I call these an opportunity as it gives the business a chance to demonstrate how it deals with the occasional criticism on their product or service. The business can show their audience that they are real and prepared to accept criticism and provide a response that shows the criticism is being dealt with. This enforces the authenticity of the conversation and provides the opportunity for effective customer service to be on display for fans to see, turning a negative into a positive.

Negative comments are rare, but inevitable. It is important to make an assessment on the kind of feedback it is before deciding on the course of response to take as deleting or ignoring it might be forgoing a real opportunity to enhance your brand.

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