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November 26, 2012

Setting the Rules for Civil Discussion in Online Forums

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

If your company engages in social media – and if you hope to have  a future, you may still feel like you’re treading an unfamiliar path. You’re not alone. On the business side, forging a social media strategy may feel a bit like the Wild, Wild West. There is no “right” way to do things, and many companies feel downright overwhelmed by all the factors they need to consider.

While keeping the lines of communication open with your customers is critical, is there such a thing as being “too open”? Yes, there is risk involved. An unhappy customer can do a lot of damage to your brand via social media, so it’s more important than ever to ensure that your customer service is top-tier. Unhappy customers aren’t your only worries, however. The world of online forums is chock-full of what the cyber world calls “trolls,” or people with no lives whose passion it is to simply stir the pot and enrage or insult others. 

Image via Shutterstock

As a result, it’s important to maintain some kind of control strategy, a set of measures allowing you to judge how to respond to anything the customers or fans say in your public forums, according to Teleperformance (News - Alert) UK, a branch of the Paris-based Teleperformance SA, a business process outsourcing multinational.

In a recent blog post, Teleperformance UK’s Julia Gibbs recommends a very simple set of controls that might be a good guide for keeping social media open but civil:

  • Is the comment abusive, threatening or dangerous? Then copy an image of it, report the user to the social network in question, and delete the comment.
  • Does the comment contain questionable language… profanities, racist or other unacceptable comments? Delete the comment and possibly bar the user from the forum.
  • Is the comment critical of your company in a way that is not logical… a rant without foundation? Take no action – just leave it there.
  • Is the comment critical of you with some specific reason? Answer the criticism publicly, or if it is too complex or involves personal details then answer it with an invitation for a way to carry on the conversation in private.

To begin, your company should establish a list of rules participants in online forums must follow. By making them prominently available to all users, you can use them as a rulebook when removing inappropriate comments.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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