Community Management 101: No Censorship, By Trisha Liu, ArcSight, an HP company

Blog Post created by trishaliu on Feb 8, 2012

Hello everyone! This topic is very 'up' for me right now (meaning: re-channeling a rant ) so I thought it might make a good blog post here. Today's message is:



If you already agree with this message, feel free to stop reading right here. But before you go, see if you have been asked any of these questions:


  • Having a customer community or being on social media is great, but what if customers bash us?
  • Can we just delete negative comments?
  • Don't rants just poison the well? Is there any benefit to such 'discussions'?


In answering these questions, my focus is on customer relationships. But these principles apply to employee communities as well. Just replace 'customers' with 'employees' and see how that may fit for you.


Question: What if customers bash us in the community?


Answer: If customers want to bash us, they're going to do it anyway.

  • Better that they do it inside our community rather than out in public
  • Having the feedback occur in the community means we are more likely to see it, and can respond
  • If customers are bashing us, this is an opportunity to have a conversation with the customers, where we can either:
    • Provide explanations
    • Learn from their feedback
    • Make improvements to our products or services
      (for great examples of companies learning from, and making changes due to, customer feedback - see Sameer Patel's excellent post Synchronicity)


Question: Can't we just delete the negative comments?


Answer: Yes, we could. But it is the wrong thing to do. The backlash created by deleting a customer comment could be even greater than the original comment itself. Also, just because a comment is deleted doesn't mean it is gone. Someone could have taken a screen shot. If the community system has email notifications, then multiple copies of the original comment are still out there in the world.


If a customer comment is deleted, what message does that send?

     "We don't want your feedback."

     "We don't like that comment."

     "We don't agree with your comment."


These are all opportunities for conversation and relationship building. (Except maybe the first one - "We don't want your feedback." A company that does not want feedback should take a hard look in the mirror on that one.)


Why is this topic so hot for me? A complaint discussion in our customer community was started a few weeks ago. The thread now has 118 replies, 1,577 views, and still growing.


With numbers like these, the situation could be characterized as an out-of-control wildfire. But thankfully, because of swift and continued attention, the situation is a controlled burn. And just like a controlled fire, my hope is that the environment will be cleaner and healthier after the ashes have settled.


If this discussion were occurring on the public web, I would imagine the number of replies and views would be much higher.


If we were to delete this discussion from our private community, I think the backlash would be spectacular. #EPICFAIL, anyone?


Question: Do negative community threads like this provide any benefit to anyone?


Answer: YES. Reading firsthand customer frustration is not fun. Some of the content may be just venting or bashing. But it is a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff. There is a lot of valuable information to be gained:

  • What are the specific pain points?
  • Is better or additional training needed?
  • Are the customers reporting issues that we didn't anticipate?


  • Show up. Participate. Demonstrate to customers that the company is listening and that we care
  • Provide answers. If one person is confused, others may have same question
  • Damage control. Correct mis-information. Quell rumors
  • Learn which areas of our systems and processes can be improved


As painful as negative comments might be, they actually a gift. Customers are taking the time to tell us:

  • What they need
  • How they are affected
  • What they care about
  • How we can help them be successful


Why would we want to turn our back on these gifts? So my message today is: Don't put a muzzle on the gift horse. Use complaints and negative feedback as an opportunity to have a conversation, learn, and build stronger relationships.


trishaliu is the Enterprise Community Manager at HP ArcSight. She is a Jive Software Champion and Charter member of the Community BackChannel. You can follow Trisha on Twitter (@mor_trisha) or on Google+.