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Deleting Comments Can Trigger Backlash: Here's Why Hiding is Smarter

Noelle Yeager
Feb 26, 2020 8:47:00 AM

Here’s Why Hiding Comments on Facebook and Other Social Platforms is a Better Move

There are a lot of things that can end up on your social media ads that are damaging. Rude comments, lewd comments and competitor promotions are some of such things. Marketers know that their Return on Ad Spend is largely dependent on how they manage and moderate user engagement.

But once you’ve identified a damaging comment, what do you do? Hide, or delete it? Is there really a difference, so long as the comment is gone from the general view?

The answer is yes, there is a big difference between deleting and hiding comments on Facebook and other social networks. Delete a comment, and it’s gone forever. No one (including the initial poster) will ever be able to access it again. However, when you hide a comment on Facebook,  you’ve successfully removed the damaging content from public view without permanently (and noticeably, from the initial poster’s perspective) erasing this interaction.

Our team always recommends brands take the hide action. In this article, we’ll take a look at the reason why we don’t delete, and the benefits that hiding comments brings to brands and their ads.

Naturally, Users React Badly When They Notice Brands Delete Their Comments.

The importance people place on free speech on social media is a funny thing. Often, the fear of negative backlash from removing a comment is what keeps brands from active content moderation.

The first thing to get out of the way is the misconception that all forms of moderation are an infringement on free speech. Hiding comments on Facebook or other social media platforms doesn't pit your brand against free speech. Research shows 80% of users believe all forms of hate speech should be removed from social media. Also, 79% think content that inspires violence and discrimination should be removed.

This said, it’s human nature to react badly to seeing something you’ve said censored. 65% of Americans do believe that it’s a free speech violation when brands ban users based on social media comments. It’s not uncommon for situations where a user notices a brand has deleted their comment to quickly spiral out of control. The now enraged user then starts posting many times about the perceived offense. The worst part is that they use increasing levels of harmful language and negativity. When this happens, you’ve turned a single harmful comment into a stream of vitriol that takes over your advertising.

hiding VS delete hide comment on Facebook

 

So How Does Hiding Help?

As explained by Facebook, “When you hide a comment from a post on your Page, the comment will only be visible to the person who wrote it and their friends. When you delete a comment from a post on your Page, the comment will be permanently removed from the post.”

Of course, who can see hidden comments does vary from platform to platform. Yet, across all social media channels, savvy users can tell when you delete one of their comments. But users are much less likely to notice when something has been hidden thanks to the simple fact that they can still see the comment when logged in.

And if a user can’t tell that their harmful comment has been removed, they’re infinitely less likely to take over advertising with damaging comments and negativity. That alone is reason to always opt to hide rather than delete.

 

Brand Benefits of Hiding Comments on Facebook: Resolving Customer Complaints

As brands determine what content they’d like to leave visible on their ads, there are a few categories and situations that can lead to sticky situations. One of the biggest is customer complaints.

An ad that’s taken over by customer complaints is going to see a dip in its effectiveness due to a drop in user perception. 50% of users looking to user-generated content like comments to advise their purchase decisions on social media. so, ads that see too many complaints (even when your brand addresses them) run the risk of damaged user perception and diminished ROAS.

At the same time, when users post a complaint on social media, they’re expecting a response (and they want it within 24 hours). According to Microsoft’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, 59 percent of global consumers have a more favorable impression of brands that tackle customer service issues on social media. Deleting complaints does the exact opposite of this. Whether you intend to or not, it signifies to the posting user that you care so little about their problem that permanently erased it. And that’s a bad look.

Fortunately, brands can leverage the hide feature to get the best of both worlds. By hiding (and not permanently deleting) customer complaints, brands can keep their ads relatively free of comments that may damage user perceptions while also responding to upset users at the same time. On platforms like Facebook and Instagram, when you hide a comment on Facebook, you also hide all the threaded responses. Doing this allows your customer care team to reach out to the user discretely and continue the conversation without distracting the ad’s general audience.

 

Brand Benefits of Hiding Comments on Facebook: Managing Potential PR Disasters

Another area where the hide feature’s ability to keep the comment accessible (and the channel of communication with the user open) is handling reports of potentially extreme events. These are comments from users who take to social media to report having been harmed by a brand, its products, or its services.

Comments about theft, allergic reactions, employee misconduct, etc. are every social marketer’s nightmare because, if picked up by the media or ill-managed, the accusation (whether true or not) of your brand having done harm can spiral into a PR frenzy.

It’s essential for companies to have mechanisms to investigate extreme allegations to determine the correct course of action. But you can’t do this if you delete the comment accusing one of your employees of theft – it’s gone, the lines of communication between your brand and the user have been shut down, and there’s a really good chance the user will notice and repost.

Instead, by hiding comments that report potentially extreme events, you give your internal team the chance to privately investigate the situation. If you need to follow up with the user for more information, none of the details and lines of communication are lost.

 

To Delete or Not To Delete: Key Takeaways

In our opinion, it’s always better to hide a comment on Facebook than delete it,  because “delete” is an irreversible and noticeable action that social media users react badly to.

Often, deleting a damaging comment does more harm because:

  • The user is infinitely more likely to see they’ve been censored and grow angry. It has huge potential to turn one damaging comment into a rant from an enraged user that’s taken over your advertising.
  • All information contained in the comment is lost, making it much more difficult for brands to look into situations and take follow-up action if required.
  • That connection with the user is permanently severed. For managing customer complaints and reports of potentially extreme situations, your brand will not be able to continue the discussion unless the user reaches out again.

Conversely, hiding a comment offers the following advantages:

  • The user is unlikely to notice the comment has been hidden as they still can see the comment. One nuance to this is the question of whether their friends can see a hidden comment, which varies between platforms. On Facebook, a user’s connected friends can still see their comment(s) even if it has been hidden. On Instagram, only the user but not her followers can see hidden comments.
  • Your internal team can still trace the comment and either reply directly within a hidden thread, or reach out via Messenger or another private channel to address any dissatisfaction or resolve an issue.

Looking to develop a content moderation strategy that protects your brand efficiently, 24/7? Let’s connect and start the discussion.

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