Tsk, Tsk, Tsk… You Should Know Better Than Deleting Comments!

I recently posted some comments on a vendor blog (*) about using Twitter in Customer Service.

The post was relatively weak in content, high in marketing buzz and I said so in the comments in addition to asking questions to further the conversation.  You know me, I can stand back and watch a perfectly good debate go to waste.  The vendor then answered my comments with a short marketing statement but no answers to my questions.

Shortly after my comment posted (they did not have monitored comments, good point for them), I used Twitter to invite people to the conversation.  I tracked via bit.ly the number of visits that my tweet (and RT, since it was RT five times) brought, and it was close to 120 visits to their blog.  A few people who came commented, adding that my questions were valid and that the vendor should answer them.

The vendor deleted the comments that said that my questions should be answered.  I replied to their response, raising more questions and providing more cases.  Again, people asked for answers to my questions, and the vendor deleted their comments.

Someone noted that the vendor was deleting the comments and called them on it – to which the vendor offered the following response:

To clarify why some comments are being deleted from the Vendor_Name Blog, the Customer Service Experience section of this blog is for conversation regarding what’s hot in the market, best practices and industry trends, not for product promotion from Vendor_Name other companies. For companies that would like to debate specific products there are plenty of 3rd party blog sites to do so. For those who would like to know what is going on at Vendor_Name and to specifically discuss our product and integrations, please visit the What’s Happening at Vendor_Name section of the blog.

Thanks to everyone who has posted valuable and appropriate discussion points.

Essentially the vendor was saying that they thought that a short message that said “Please answer the questions posed by Esteban” was promoting someone else’s product.

I am a big supporter of no-moderation comments followed by deletion when necessary.

However, in this case, it was not only un-necessary to delete them but it was also wrong.  The questions were nothing more than amplifying the conversation, asking the vendor for more details on their product and trying to learn more.  What else could a vendor ask for than 5-6 people asking them for information on their product or ideas?  Isn’t that the idea behind creating and using the blog anyways?

I wish I had a virtual rule to slap the wrist of this vendor and have their attention to tell them what I think is a sine-qua-non quality of creating a community: respect.  You may not like or agree with the comment, but short of being spam or abusive, you have to let it stand.  Period.  There are no exceptions here.  You cannot build your community by silencing its members.  Very quickly the remaining the members will depart.

I won’t go back to this vendor’s blog, nor will I continue to follow them on Twitter.  It is up to them to gain my trust and respect back by taking appropriate actions and letting everyone know about them.  I already reached out to them, and they scorned me.  Their turn.

______________________
(*) I don’t mention any names when posting negative entries in my blog.  I am not doing this out of spite, I am doing it to further the conversation via a bad example.   Their names do not change the nature of this conversation.

To clarify why some comments are being deleted from the Parature Blog, the Customer Service Experience section of this blog is for conversation regarding what’s hot in the market, best practices and industry trends, not for product promotion from Parature or other companies. For companies that would like to debate specific products there are plenty of 3rd party blog sites to do so. For those who would like to know what is going on at Parature and to specifically discuss our product and integrations, please visit the What’s Happening at Parature section of the blog.

Thanks to everyone who has posted valuable and appropriate discussion points.

14 thoughts on “Tsk, Tsk, Tsk… You Should Know Better Than Deleting Comments!”

  1. I hope this isn’t a vendor of discussion forums or social media, because what example does it set for their customers when they insist on controlling the content? You would think a vendor would have a better understanding of ‘best practices.’

    When SSPA members ask me, “Is there any danger in letting marketing own/run our forum?” I will begin pointing them to this post!

    –John

    PS–how interesting that WordPress tells me the automatically generated ‘related post’ to this one is “New Racist Miley Photos.” 😉

  2. Esteban, I could not agree with you more. The only time I delete comments is if they are SPAM or contain language that I deem overly offensive. Disagreement and conversation, as I recently discussed on my own blog:

    http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/the-one-way-blog-a-waste-of-time/

    While my blog is not a corporate blog I feel the same rules must apply. Companies that refuse to allow conversation flow, that try to hide from their warts, are destined to fail as they are intentionally avoiding conversations. Embrace the conversation, engage with your customers and potential customers. If you cannot win them over on the hard issues they will not be your customers for long anyway.

    John

  3. Well said Esteban, your illustration and non-mention of the vendor only highlights your integrity. It’s unfortunate that the vendor was shortsighted enough to delete the post which would earn them more dis-repute, in contrast to leaving the comments there with appropriate responses.

    Even if their responses would have highlighted a product limitation, who were they hiding it from ? Doesn’t the whole world already compares/contrasts and knows positives vs. negatives of a product / solution ? I pity their shallow thinking.

    Thanks,

    Sid
    @SiddMishra

  4. Esteban,

    It seems that you value freedom of expression and the right to one’s opinion, so here is mine.

    I began browsing through “the other company’s” blogs and social media after hearing about them from one of their clients. I think the use of these forms of communication is interesting and potentially valuable, though I am not on the “everyone must go social” bandwagon. For a long time I was either on the border, if not the other side, about Twitter and the like at all.

    Still, I see only valid points in what they discuss and present about the use of it as a tool. I don’t dream or believe for a second that this one article represents their view on communication, problem-solving, and service. Strangely, however, you decided to childishly distort the meaning of what you read and ignore its purpose and value to begin with. Most people who would read their blog and then come here would have the common sense to see that you have chosen to paint a very clouded and unfair picture through a self-righteous, ignorant, negative, and ridiculous stream of comments and insults. You essentially took a simple topic presented for consideration and appear to want to use it to belittle or attack a competitor. Maybe you simply enjoy stirring up trouble, but after reading through their blog and coming to see yours, I am certain that while their entries may not reveal the value of their products to me, yours make clear that I would want to avoid doing business with you. Do you have some need to challenge them or fear that you need to make them look bad in order to somehow benefit yourself? Strange. It reminds me of teens insulting each other in chat rooms except that in this case one side had the class not to respond down on that level.

    Shame on you for your tactics of addressing non-issues, posing meaningless questions, and choosing to see only what you want and then twisting it. How ridiculous of you to think you are the anointed savior who can put them on “the righteous path.”

    As for the deleted comments issue, who cares? They put all of the comments back, and clearly not because “you made them” do it. I don’t see where those comments added anything to the topic or value of the discussion in that blog. I wanted to read about the topic named in the article, not bore myself with another six paragraphs of someone’s challenges to the company on a separate issue and how they respond to it. That they initially deleted those comments changes my feelings about the conversation in no way at all. It’s a blog, not a congressional hearing, not Dateline NBC, and not the Washington Post, and I hardly think that the use of “Twitter” stands as the standard and measure of a company’s integrity and transparency, so give me a break. For all I know they answered those people through a separate stream. At least you have a group of buddies and similarly weak-minded sheep who follow your veiled rant and put some credence in your integrity-barren self praise and smear tactics. It actually surprised me a bit to see the agreement your comments produced. Then again, it’s not so hard to make people believe in what one espouses. Even dictators, anarchists, terrorists, etc. have loyal followers. They might be brilliant and have some good ideas. They just don’t represent everyone or present the whole truth.

    If the two of you (the “vendor”)represented companies providing similar products, I would be sure to get in touch with them while advising my staff and colleagues in the business to do the same. It would be nice to see civility and fairness rule in business, just as it would in government, society, family, etc. but perhaps this is too challenging for some in today’s world. If you’re going to jump on someone’s topic, perhaps you can read more carefully and then take time to think before you write. Then if you decide to create your own parallel universe to discuss the discussion, you might have more comments and discussion about and not a few “I agrees” followed by “Yep. I’m right. Yep. I’m the man. Yep. Look at me.”

    For now, maybe someone should lock the two of you in a room, though I’m not sure they deserve that.

    Good luck,

    Matthew

    1. Matthew,

      Thanks for your comments. Not only do I welcome free speech – I appreciate your comments. I am not sure what I have done to upset you, but whatever it is I have to extend an apology.

      My mission is not to belittle anyone, or to insult anyone. It is just to make things better and (as an old friend of mine used to say) “grow the pie for everyone”.

      Anyone who knows me will tell you that I don’t attack or create situations for my benefit. If I wanted to get famous from this squabble I would have put the vendor’s name, I would have reached out to the press, and could have made something of this (trust me, I know how if I need to). Nor do I have one of their competitors as clients or friends. I am not associated with any vendor or product.

      Instead I chose the path that my experience taught me was the best: contact the vendor directly to help them improve their position and solve their problems. I am not sure where in the entire history I wrote whom the vendor was, nor did I confirm to people who sent me emails and DM (direct messages in twitter) guessing whom it was. My intention was never to out the vendor as a bad vendor or a bad person – rather to use the instance to set an example of what works and the way things should be done. Examples are a good way to explain a best practice.

      I don’t claim to have the final answer to anything, nor do I believe that what I say is the only way. If you were to use Twitter and follow me you will see that this is MO – I take on things that I dissent with and express myself vocally and with assertion. I believe in what I say, and I know that I have the data and experience to back it up. I also know that what I say is not the solution to everyone. I am very pragmatic and certainly always learning. Anyone who ever known me or talk to me will tell you that I am the first to turn around 180 degrees when proven wrong. Again, my mission is to grow the pie – and the only way to do that is through discourse and discussion.

      If you don’t agree with me that is fine. I think there is club somewhere of vendors and users that don’t agree with me – and there are many out there. That is the result of putting my beliefs out there and standing behind them.

      There are two points I want to comment that you brought up.

      1. You don’t believe in social media. Great. Good for you. I never said it was for everyone and we will certainly miss you (you do have a passion and a writing style that would certainly be welcome). I am sure you believe it is hype. I used to say the same about the Internet in 1993 (and man, was I wrong). Only time can tell which way things go, but in my opinion “this fad” is driven by forces more powerful than hype and cool technology (actually the technology truly reeks right now compared to what we need). This is societal change that has trickled up from the digital citizen generation to the workplace, and will continue to expand ‘(we had warning though, this was both in the “Cluetrain Manifesto” and “Groundswell”). This is a revolution that will bring us many changes and amazing things to come. I wish you would reconsider your position. Of course, you don’t think my position has much merit – so feel free to read whoever it is you respect in the social or technology world and think of the long-term implications of this revolution.

      2. You say who cares that comments are deleted. This is a big point for me. You don’t have to agree or even respond to comments (I could’ve ignored you comments here easily, even delete them if I wanted). However, and keep in mind what I said before, deleting comments is the ultimate of arrogance. It sends the message that you don’t care about your clients, your partners, your peers and that you know better. You can never shut down a voice just because you don’t agree with it. I grew up in Argentina during the military government and know all too well how censoring works. And it does not. You need to listen to the dissenters, take their good points and learn from that. I do that all the time.

      You took the time to post a thoughtful response, and I wanted to do the same. I appreciate your comments. I would love to have a longer, real life discussion if you want. Send me an email via the comment form in my blog (I don’t put my email address to discourage SPAM – nor that I don’t get it) with your email address or contact information and I’d be glad to meet you in person for coffee or caramels next time I am in your neck of the woods. My treat.

      I have been meaning to post an update to this post for some time and I will take the opportunity to do so now. I did contact the vendor and we are talking. I offered to meet with them and both discuss this issue as well as learn more about their product. I am not doing this for money (I am not charging them for this, nor will I try to sell them my services) or fame, but simply to both learn from them as well as try to grow the pie. They can take my advice, or they can ignore it. Either way, and it is their choice, the fact that they chose to have the conversation as opposed to get upset about it is a good sign and shows they are better than a mistake potentially made by someone. Stuff happens, you have no control over it, you deal with it and you move on.

      Finally, I want to thank you for your comments again. While I don’t consider myself a dictator and don’t consider my “followers” (which it is just one of the many communities where I participate) sheep (actually, they are some of the brightest people I ever met and am always learning from them – you should meet them and maybe they will enrich your life as they have mine), I have learned that my speech sometimes has inflammatory consequences and I may need to tone it down. I will certainly work on that.

      Thanks
      Esteban

    2. Matthew:

      As a vendor who competes with the company in question, and one that commonly has called them out for marketing that does not align very well with facts, I am clearly biased on this topic. As such, I am having a hard time understanding your perspective. I am not looking for a fight, but rather would like to better understand where you are coming from.

      To recap the events:

      1. The company in question posts an entry in their blog that is trying to position Twitter as a good channel for providing customer care. This post is clearly part of a marketing strategy since they are aggressively pushing their new Twitter integration.

      2. Esteban makes a post that asks the vendor for how and why they could advocate Twitter as an effective support channel and their contention of it being “free”, among other things.

      3. The company in question posts a response that does not address his questions at all. Now remember, this is from a company that sells itself as a transparent company that welcomes discussion and happens to sell software where transparency is a must.

      4. Others apparently post to this blog and ask why they did not answer Esteban’s questions and the company in question apparently deletes them.

      5. Seeing the importance of transparency in any community and the irony of the violator of such a fundamental tenet, Esteban, without even mentioning their name, uses the situation to call attention to poor community management.

      6. Others post that they agree with Esteban and several days later the company in question posts the questions they previously deleted along with a real response to Esteban’s questions. I personally doubt that either of these things would have occurred if Esteban had not started the conversation.

      7. People looking at the company’s post in question now have more information to sort through to decide what is relevant to them.

      8. The company in question will undoubtedly now be more careful than to censor questions and not answer those that were posed.

      What exactly did Esteban do here that was wrong?

      A vital benefit provided by social networking is to make people accountable for what they say and do and to allow analysis that is based on fact and not hype. http://twitpic.com/dj257

      I welcome discussions that are pointed, passionate and help people cut through marketing hype to complete objective and fact-based analysis.

      Fuze will always welcome Esteban or anyone else challenging what we are saying or doing. In the end, accountability and transparency, like competition, is good for all those involved

      Chuck Van Court
      Founder and CEO of Fuze Digital Solutions.

      1. Chuck,

        Thanks for the comments, and the support. I think that all of us still need to learn better how to handle this new world, and I am just trying to put Matthew behind us and move on with the lessons learned. I think that the vendor in question realized they needed to do things differently and seems to be moving in the right direction – and that is what matters to me out of this incident.

        I appreciate you not involving the other vendor by name, shows clearly that we have the same goals in this world: make a bigger pie for everyone while competing fair and honestly.

        Thanks for the read and the comment, I appreciate it.
        Esteban

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