Is it ever appropriate to erase comments from a company's social media platform?

Social media by its nature is open and transparent.


Rebecca Acevedo, VP, corporate, public affairs; PR manager, TD Bank
Did PR for Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. prior to joining current company

Social media by its nature is open and transparent. Success is built on feedback and a sense of community. That is what makes it so successful for personal and business use.

Feedback is a gift and social tools can be leveraged for focus groups, product testing, communication, and customer service. Yet there are occasions when posts need to be removed from a company's site. 

Yes, negative or critical posts have benefits. First, answering issues shows you are a caring company. You may help answer concerns others are thinking about, thus preventing further complaints. If you hide posts, people will uncover them at some point and you'll appear untruthful. Finally, the community will self correct, which is more beneficial than a company rep chiming in, as that could appear defensive. Self correction also provides third-party credibility, shows your fans' passion, and proves you aren't just interested in marketing yourself.

There are times when a post needs to be blocked or removed. Discriminatory posts, attacks on another person in the community, or bullying can't be tolerated. Followers should be blocked if they continue to post inappropriate language or links on the site.

What's the benefit to keeping these types of posts? It will reflect badly on the company if you keep them. Followers will be offended by posts, might think you endorse the behavior, or won't feel safe and not return.

There are also times when followers post confidential information on your site.

Though your site's disclaimer should state that information such as social security or account numbers shouldn't be posted, when people need help they like to share all necessary information for quicker results. It is imperative you remove this information quickly both for privacy and legal reasons, as well as for your and the social media channel's reputation.

Social media channels are meant for open communication, but they still represent the company brand. Careful review of all posts should happen regularly and PR pros should think carefully about which posts they keep.


Dave Karraker, PR director, Skyy Spirits
In the PR industry since 1994, he has held similar posts at Sony, Allied Domecq, and Kmart.

We sometimes forget social media was started by individuals, not corporations. The genesis of social media was centered on starting a conversation. I can think of very few conversations (except those with my mother) that are one-way and aggressively moderated by the person who started the dialogue.

With social media, there are absolutely times when you want to remove consumer posts, but this must be the exception, not the rule. Vulgarities and lewd photos do not have a place in a forum shared by thousands of people. However, negative comments about your company or brands should never be removed from your social media channels.

By starting a presence in social media, you are opening a two-way conversation channel with your consumer. As with any conversation, that will sometimes include moments when the person you are speaking with doesn't agree with you.  

Your knee-jerk reaction to re-move a negative consumer post is likely misguided. If you have truly cultivated and nurtured your fans, they will moderate and police your page for you.  

In the spirits business, we incorporate numerous celebrities into our social media efforts. Sometimes those stars can be polarizing and fans can react negatively. But what typically happens in those instances is the true fans of the brand will respond to the negative posts, actually defending our brand for us. Of course, this requires you to have already established a true relationship with your fans, turning them into advocates through conscious, proactive two-way conversations.  

There is also a place for the brand to participate actively and honestly in the conversation. Regardless of whether or not you are able to actually turn a given individual's opinion around, you're still building credibility and trust with the rest of the viewing community by showing that you're honestly attempting to address issues.

If you have established a true two-way experience in your social media channels, you will be surprised to find that even when these types of "disagreements" flare up, your "dislikes" don't increase. It is all part of a healthy conversation.

PRWeek's View
Removing comments is acceptable when relegated to cases such as personal attacks or unnecessarily vulgar language. However, negative opinions expressed in any semblance of the proper context must never be erased.

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