Before we get into the merits either way, here’s the comment, along with our response:
Here are two opposing perspectives about deleting comments from your Facebook fan page, as argued by Michael, Mike and Jodie.
Which do you think is the right approach?
You Shouldn’t Delete Negative Comments
If you’re going to create a forum where customers can discuss your business, you should be open to allowing that discussion to be negative. There’s a limit, spam, swearing and hate posts should be deletable, but not general complaints or ethical discussions about your business.
Deleting ethical discussions about your business is a slippery slope. Should BP censor discussions about oil spills they cause? If the Bhopal Disaster happened in the era of Facebook would we have thought it reasonable for Union Carbide to censor discussion on their Facebook page? In our view, using animal leather in our products is not as bad as these other examples, but for animal rights activists it might be. I don’t want to live in a society where ethical debates are censored in any way, so I don’t think businesses should censor these discussions on their Facebook page.
From a purely business perspective, am I going to trust a company that deletes posts they don’t like from their Facebook page? There are lots of positive comments on our Facebook page, but if a customer knows or suspects we’ve deleted one post we didn’t like, how can they trust that we haven’t deleted 10 times as many bad posts as there are good posts on our page?
We should actually take this comment on board and use it as constructive feedback to continue our work on offering vegan shoe options to our customers. We’ve been working on this for a year now, people clearly want it.
Sure, our Facebook page isn’t the ideal place for an animal rights debate, but a good, well thought out comment that shows we listen to our customers adds value to our brand.
You Should Delete Negative Comments
Your Facebook Fan page is a haven where your true fans can gather to celebrate your business. You must absolutely not let it descend into a place where anyone can simply drive by and spray venom on everyone else.
If someone wandered into your physical store and started yelling about animal rights, you would quickly show them the door. If they refused, you would call the police. You definitely wouldn't allow them to leave a poster on your front window. Why is online any different?
By all means you should allow your true customers to air grievances (“where is my order, dammit??”), but general or unconstructive rants are something entirely different.
It’s also appropriate to delete posts that are disrespectful to your community. This particular comment crosses that line. To our shoe-loving fans, it’s a personal affront, implying they are outdated, “disgusting” and “cruel” for wanting leather shoes.
We’re also extremely unlikely to ever sell shoes to this person. She’s loudly mocking our business, and for a brief moment her opinion is proudly displayed at the top of our fan page. She’s welcome to protest issues, but could she please do it elsewhere?
If you still don’t agree, just try thinking of a horrible post you would undoubtedly censor. I guess the question is, where is the line? For different businesses, this is going to vary. It’s up to you as the business owner to decide what the rules are.
My advice? If a comment isn’t constructive, you should remove it, ban the user, and don’t look back.
We had quite a lengthy debate about this last night and all 3 of us could have ended up going either way. In the end we decided to leave the comment up and put it to this blog to help us determine what we should do next time. We’d love to hear your thoughts.