Moderating Anger

This week’s lesson in moderation can be very easily coupled with the lesson in reputation management. Both have a similar outcome, which is to respond to, and if necessary delete, comments from angry consumers in a timely manner that will hopefully resolve the issue. For this assignment, I am acting as a moderator for a fast food chain and a mainstream news network and I will be dealing with angry comments left on their social media pages. These are not real examples and are not directed towards any specific companies or people.

To a fast food chain:

“I am disgusted about the state of your store on 1467 Justin Kings Way. The counter was smeared in what looked like grease and the tables were full of trash and remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response:

“Thank you for informing me of this situation, someone will look into it. I can assure you that this restaurant tries its very best to keep up with health codes and keep our appearance as clean as possible. This includes the kitchen and the dining area. If what you are saying turns out to be true, I apologize behalf of the restaurant that you had to experience that. You may have noticed the trash when our staff was unable to clean up the tables right away. Our cashiers may have been putting in orders or assisting other customers and didn’t have a chance to clean the counter at the time that you entered. Regardless, thank you for the input and we will strive to do better in the future.”

To a mainstream news network (let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides):

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

My response:

I would have to remove this comment from the page because of the obscene/profane language used. However, I would try to message the user privately to explain why the comment needed to be removed. If the user still wanted to complain about the report, I would listen and try to prove that all of the reporting on the network is balanced in a very calm way. However, I feel that the user would not want to continue communication with me or the organization once the comment was removed. The most important thing is removing the comment so very few audience members, if any, would see it. Any other correspondence depends on how the user reacts to the comment being removed.


9 thoughts on “Moderating Anger

  1. You said, “most important thing is removing the comment so very few audience members, if any, would see it.”

    I disagree.

    I think the most important thing is to respond or comment about the post and addressing the posters concerns stating the comment had been removed. But there is context of removal.
    I agree about removal, but there shouldn’t be some complete revisionist history of the comment as if it never happened. Because in truth, it did happen.

    What I mean by that is what happened if someone did see it? And then they come back to the story to find the response removed without any sort of explanation? How does this foster trust with your brand? It doesn’t. It can’t.

    Users cannot trust your brand because at any time it could sweep things under the run that they disagree with the commenter. Think of the state-run media overseas. This is how they operate.

    Remove it?

    Yes, but with some sort of explanation even citing website policies. No one likes to hear about policies, but they are the rules of the site. If someone can’t follow the rules and play nicely, then they can’t play.


    • I have a different process of damage control than you do Dave. There should be an explanation for the audience members who did see the comment, I agree, and I overlooked that in my intial post. But, I stand by my thought that removing the comment is what should be done first because it can be done quickly when very few people may have seen it. I can always explain later because the explanation takes up time where more people have the opportunity to see the comment and be offended. If there are different steps to moderation, which in this case there are, I would complete the steps that can be done quickly first and finish the longer steps later.

      • Why does the speed at which you take it down matter versus having a strong reason with intention for actually taking it down?

      • Additionally … Check out this pages and read point number 7: Then scroll and read the comments.

        Although this isn’t a moderation issue, it is a revision that has commenters confused and angry.

        This is the very reason I say never delete and re-post. There must be context or you will have an angry mob for sure.

      • Dave, I believe speed matters because, as I’ve already stated before, it lessens the ability for more users to see and be offended by the comment. I feel that the comment would need to be completely removed because of what was stated in lecture which was “remove indecent/obscene messages (maybe block/report)”, which this comment was. I am still giving the user the ability to comment in the future, but based on lecture, I could’ve had grounds for blocking the user from the page altogether. The only person I can be sure that knows the comment was there is the person who posted it. So the next order of business is to inform that person of why the comment was removed and maybe invite them to revise the comment in a way that doesn’t violate the rules of the page. If I address the comment on the page without anyone asking about it, I open myself up to more questions than answers for the people who did not see the original comment. If someone did see the comment and wondered why it is no longer on the page, they are free to ask about it. My explanation would be that it contained profane language and needed to be removed because it violated the rules of the page and may have offended some users. I personally don’t see anything positive about leaving a comment that contained profanity on a page any longer than a minute after I as the community manager notice it.

  2. I think it is sometimes hard to respond to negative comments without getting a little defensive. But that rarely matters to customers. They don’t want to hear reasons why things weren’t up to par; they want to hear how you will make it better. I deal with this quite often at my store, and because I am so emotionally invested, I have a hard time “smiling and nodding” and accepting that even when they are actually wrong, that the customer is always right. I felt that same vein of thought in your first response, and just wanted you to know that I felt the same way!

    • I always have a hard time with calming myself down enough to not get defensive with people. That’s why I vent to friends and family in person so I don’t take out my frustration on the negative customer and make the situation worse. I agree with customers wanting to know how you will make it better, but personally I want the explanation of why it didn’t go right the first time. I may not be the typical customer though. I always have to defend my actions, especially when I think I’m right, so I expect the same of others. If I were actually the community manager, I would know the situation wasn’t as bad as the customer said it was, but we have to “smile and nod” like you said. I may not be that good of a liar if you could tell that I was just saying what they wanted to hear instead of being honest. I must have to work on my “fake sincerity” more. Thanks for the comment!

  3. A few points from me. Firstly, re the fast food. I thought your response was spot on but I would have edited it to “Thank you for informing me of this situation, someone will look into it. I can assure you that this restaurant tries its very best to keep up with health codes and keep our appearance as clean as possible. .” My concern is by saying “…if it turns out to be true” could be misinterpreted as us saying we don’t believe you 100%. Now, maybe we don’t, but I wouldn’t t want to suggest this in response. Re Mid East, check out my conversation strand in the Week 6 Assignments post on Sakai, Thanks for the post Steven which generated some good conversation!

    • Honestly, without proof of how the fast food place looked when that person entered, I don’t fully believe them, but I understand that I may not want to portray that in my comment. In response to what BBC actually did on their Facebook page, I have a bit of an unrelated counter-argument. You said the comments containing profanity would be left on the page as long as they were not direct threats. What about other words that are offensive to certain groups, like the r-word for people with developmental disabilities? This is a word that is used often in many contexts that aren’t meant to personally attack people, but it does offend people no matter the meaning behind it. Does the organization leave the comment with this word on the page because it wasn’t a direct threat or personal attack, even though they risk losing followers who are offended by the use of the word? I understand social media has its own set of norms, but sometimes I think moderaters need to think about the audience too, at the risk of possibly over-policing content.

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