The Need for Speed in Clearing Blog Comments

    September 15, 2006

There is an expectation in the blogosphere-and not an unreasonable one-that bloggers will check their blogs frequently and clear out their comment moderation queues quickly in order to keep the dialogue fresh and current.

As businesses expand their presence in the blogosphere, they appear to be doing so at corporate speeds, not blog speeds. That’s a mistake. The blogosphere will not adapt to the pace of business.

Two recent incidents show the hazards associated with the usual business response times. First, Direct2Dell, the Dell Computers blog, has been criticized for withholding negative posts and getting some information up to the blog-such as the battery recall-concurrent with the announcement through normal channels. More recently, McDonald’s has taken heat for not clearing negative comments to its Open for Discussion blog that focuses on corporate social responsibility. A post on the blog responded to crticism aimed at the company for including a HumVee toy as a Happy Meal item, part of a promotion with Hummer maker GM. Comments appeared a day later.

In both cases, the desired items and comments eventually appeared. But did they appear in response to blogger outrage decrying apparent corporate censorship?

I don’t know the answer for certain, but having spent 15 years working for Fortune 500 companies, I suspect not. My guess is that nobody is dedicated 100% full-time to these blogs, and clearing moderation queues is something that is gotten around to when time permits and higher priority tasks have been completed. That’s just the way businesses try to handle these kinds of activities: “I know you’re already working full-time, but now we’d like you to manage our highly visible corporate blog, too. But don’t let your other responsibilities slide.”

It’s easy to see why corporations wouldn’t want to dedicate a full salary, benefits, and other associated costs to an employee who will do nothing but blog. (Although it’s not unheard of, either, as in the case of Stonyfield Farms.) But when a business is unable to respond quickly enough to meet the minimum requirements that have emerged as a standard for responding in the blogosphere, the company’s blog could wind up doing more harm than good.

Of course, even among us individual bloggers, it’s not always possible to respond as quickly as we’d like. However, companies are not individuals. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a company that has started a blog to commit the resources to maintain it, which includes reviewing comments in the moderation queue in a timely manner.

For those who are counseling their companies and clients to blog, it’s important to explain the commitment as well as the rationale. If the organization isn’t willing to make that commitment, an alternative means of ensuring comments are addressed effectively are not available, it’s probably better to hold off on blogging until the organization grasps the benefits in terms of the expense of time and resources. It’s just not worth it having high-profile bloggers lambaste you for censorship when you really just haven’t had the time to get to it.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.