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June 2, 2006

What Should Your Company Do In The Face Of Anonymous Posts & Comments?

One of the great things about the web is that it allows people to publish content. However, the blogs also allow people to post content anonymously. As we don't know the identity of such sources, this means the reader cannot put the anonymous poster's thoughts in context. What if the poster is a competitor, a disgruntled employee or even an ex-spouse? Without that identity any information should always be looked at with a jaundiced eye.

Blogs, forums and other websites that allow anonymous comments play a valuable role in giving people the opportunity to express their views openly without fear of reprisal, however, there is also the danger that views expressed or facts stated might not actually be true. Yet if you are the object of such criticism if you don't follow up with a comment your company runs the danger of letting a lot of the mud stick.

I've been thinking one strategy to combat anonymous criticism is to raise the issue of a lack of credibility when someone posts or sends in a rumor on a blog anonymously. You would repeat the same message on a consistent basis, that its hard for the reader to really understand if criticism is accurate or fair when we don't know the identity of the person who commented. You'd combat the criticism by commenting on the blog and cite your company's side of the story every time an anonymous comment is made. Consistency and discipline would gain you credibility in this case.

1) Your company tells its story.
2) Your company gains credibility by being prepared to be open. You might ask why isn't the commenter open? What does the anonymous commenter have to hide?

However, you might then enter into enter into a debate with other people who comment anonymously. Ways to combat stop that difficult situation would be to start off by saying your company will not have a debate with someone when the company does not know the identity of the person who comments. By setting a reasonable expectation I think the reader will be more supportive of your company.

B.L. Ochman inspired this post because recently she started the Ethics Crisis. The blog allows people to post anonymously about their worst company or personal crisis. Scroll down on the existing confessions to see examples, unlike the anonymous issue I've discussed in this post, I think B.L.'s confessions feature really allows the community to explore their own ethics and receive feedback. However, I think its better than you be open about your identity especially when you are criticizing other people or companies.

Posted by johncass at June 2, 2006 12:26 PM

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