Blogging Transparently- A Lesson From The Weekend!

Over the weekend I was invited by a fellow LinkedIn Group member to join the conversation on her blog. I get a number of these requests, but the content of the blog revolved around Baby Boomers and is relevant to retention management.  Not to mention, the way she asked me to join the conversation was passionate, well thought out and did a great job of drawing me in. I thought this would be a stellar opportunity to document how to blog successfully in the business world.

The blog she posted was politically sparked and had a great deal to say. Most of it being her opinion backed on some fact. The comments that followed seemed to stay within the friendly confines of her political outlook, so I decided to post my two cents. I disagreed with some of the blog as well as the comments- but it was a very good conversation. Not being a Baby Boomer I felt like I was a bit disqualified to comment, but because she asked I threw my comment into the ring.

My response was four paragraphs of my experiences and opinions based on my 12 years in the work force. What followed saddened me!

The blogger followed up my comment with a email diatribe of how she was not going to allow my comment to be posted and went into how I was dead wrong with my opinion. Also my stance on her political view was also simply put- wrong!

I spent yesterday processing what she wrote. I was so impressed with how she drew me into her blog. Yet- because I didn’t match her opinion and political view I was banned? Instead of allowing my comment and posting her opinion back she simply stifled the conversation? I am not going to live in a world of absolutes and say what she did was wrong. But it certainly did not spark a positive response from me.

When blogging you want to be as transparent as possible! Unless the blog comment is spam, or has defaming qualities- there is no need to moderate blog comments. In my time as a community manager and running numerous blogs for Fortune 500’s, I have never once edited or deleted a comment or user blog- even if I whole heartedly disagreed with the message. The reason being is it creates the exact feelings I was feeling yesterday. Under appreciated! Annoyed that I wasted my time! Not to mention, I will never go to this person’s blog again to comment, nor will she receive any form of link back from my blog.  No Tweets! I am not doing this to be vindictive, but the fact of the matter is that Social Media is supposed to be empowering. Not stifling! If you empower interactions you will see business value! I see it every day with my clients. Empowering will help you build better relationships! Empowering will build affinity with your peers, customers and partners. Being transparent and respectfully disagreeing is far more productive than simply ending the conversation in a direct message. Spark the debate and let others with different opinions be heard. This will build mutual respect and stronger bonds that will help you and your business down the road. Agreeing to disagree in the new business world is even more valuable then agreeing.

To the blogger: A+ on marketing to your group! Kudos! Being a transparent blogger that allows free flowing opinions and interactions= Fail!

My hope is this post will help both companies and individuals alike think about Social Media in a more transparent way. Corporate policy on Social Media to me inhibits critical 2 way conversations. The blog experience from this weekend only proves that “policy” or imposing restrictions ends the conversation before it even starts. What is more important is how you spark those conversations and react to negative sentiment or disagreeing points of view. Don’t shut it down, put the resources in place to react and inspire- even if it doesn’t jive with your opinion.

Here is a little graphic I put together that sums up the post.

social media transparency

23 responses to “Blogging Transparently- A Lesson From The Weekend!

  • Ellen Riches

    I agree with you – the blogging experience needs to be transparent. Lively debate is what this whole medium is about – so pulling people in and then pushing them away because they disagree is completely at odds with what this is all about.

    By the way, I also like how you have pulled me into this debate. You asked for my feedback in a simple email – no big deal – and it was easy to get to the blog and read. I think you have demonstrated really well how to make this work. I plan to borrow this technique and use it wisely. Thanks Derek. All the best, Ellen Riches

    • derekshowerman

      Ellen, I generally will only solicit a response to a blog post from people who have first hand experience, or a deep opinion on the subject. I know you have been keen on “best practices” around SM. So I felt like you would have an opinion! Although I was hoping for one different from mine. 😉 But thank you for agreeing with me.

  • Scott Hammond

    When did we get to the point that people started thinking it was OK to react so violently to diverse viewpoints?

    • derekshowerman

      Scott, I think when it comes to politics people can get rather violent. One thing to consider, if you are going to post a political blog post- be ready for backlash from your opposite!

  • Suzanne Harrison

    Derek – I couldn’t agree more. I am not naive enough to assume all people agree with my opinions thus a healthy debate often allows me to see another perspective or understand where the message is getting lost in translation. The behavior you described via blogging is also creeping into our everyday life and is wreaking havoc. I was raised to never discuss politics. Today, people demand to know your political views and demand to have “in your face” discussions about how your opinion is WRONG. Disagreement is not the issue, it is being respectful f others opinions and views that matter.

  • Mack Ade

    Blogging doesn’t become validated without different opinions.

    It also is personal, and everyone doesn’t agree with everyone.

    That’s blogging.

    It’ also life.

    • derekshowerman

      Thanks Mack. You out of everybody knows this to be true. You go so far as to blog the question and your answer to most every question that lands in your inbox. If every organization was that transparent we would be living in a utopian business world. 🙂 Thanks for the comment and keep up the great work.

  • Nashid Salahuddin

    One of my favorite things about blogging is the varying viewpoints and opinions that come up in the conversations. If participants don’t feel that the blog is transparent, the bottom line is that they will stop participating.

  • Stacey Warde

    I’m a boomer and a publisher, and I have had great difficulty transitioning from print to online as a way to reach an audience, as well as promote dialog. I remain somewhat skeptical of the whole blogging phenom, especially as so-called “citizen journalists” attempt to fill the information black hole that forms as newspapers fold and qualified journalists are dropped from the payroll.

    I’d like to think that blogging and social networking provide a means for greater dialog, with fewer of the controls of more traditional media. Unfortunately, as you’ve experienced, that’s not always the case. Often, it seems, the “open” dialog that these new media encourage results in a lower form of exchange that includes name-calling, absolutism and unparalleled ignorance.

    Thanks for the suggestion of transparency. As a newcomer to this medium, I couldn’t agree more.

    Still, I remain hopeful that

    • derekshowerman

      Stacey, thank you for the response. As George from pointed out below, you do need some form of moderation. If a business community or blog starts name calling etc, then it is up to the owners to end the abuse. However, it is important to not just block or delete posts-rather talk to the parties and find a common resolution. Ultimately- if a person name calls, etc the only person it is hurting is themselves. Remember that next time you get upset about that. It makes them look bad amongst their peers. 😉

      I would also say that this thread certainly seems rather vibrant & tolerant? No?

  • George Moser

    A slightly different twist but to your point about F500’s. At Ripple6 we offer a community feature to all kinds of Brands. Our research has shown that consumers want to talk to Brands, no surprise there.

    In every implementation we have done the Brands we deal with all recognize the value of transparency, it’s a best practice shared by most in the space. We review this with them early on and there has never been any push back. I think most of them understand the necessity and the value. We have in the past run across some who do raise the issue but the argument, identical to yours is wouldn’t you rather know about it and that discussion address the objection.

  • Janel

    I cannot believe that someone would not want to have a wide range of comments about a blog post. As a blogger, I would like to believe that part of writing a blog post is to start a discussion, and to have a large number of comments from people who have different opinions would be GREAT.

    I just simply do not understand why someone would turn away a comment that is in direct response to a post. Transparency is key.

  • aj ghergich

    We should ALL be hoping that someone disagrees with our viewpoints and offers a constructive reason as to why.

    If you are not looking for that, you have set yourself up for failure.

  • Steve Schulman

    Derek, have you asked yourself what her motives were for inviting your participation? Based on her reaction and your description of other people’s comments on her blog, it seems that she was only fishing for like-minded people that would support her point of view.

    Social proof is one of the very powerful weapons that Robert Cialdini writes about in “The Psychology of Influence”. People sometimes use the clout mob psychology offers because it can positively impact their sales – be it for a physical product, a political ideology, or anything in between. That’s why you see so many testimonials in advertisements.

    If she published your response it could both challenge her authority and potentially plant seeds of doubt in the minds of her followers. Bottom line is it could hurt her business.

    Was she right? Not in my opinion. Actually, I think she was rather rude. After all she did invite your participation. To me her reaction was inexcusable. And, from a freedom of speech perspective, she was 100% wrong. However, from her point of view what you wrote apparently was construed as a threat, hence her emotional response.

    Putting it all into perspective, though, what are the requirements for becoming a blogger? I think the only requirement is that you’re breathing – and even that’s not always the case. There’s software that can spit out and automate blogs faster than you can blink your eyes.

    Once you’ve decided to become a blogger, there are sites that invite you to blog for free. And, if you pay for your hosting, all it takes is less than ten bucks a year for an URL and a small monthly fee for a hosting account and you’re in business. There are no other restrictions that I’m aware of. Virtually anyone can do it.

    I haven’t seen any terms of service that referred to moral responsibility or mutual respect (other than the restrictions about pornography, hate, etc.) Morality and being psychological well-balanced doesn’t seem to enter into the picture.

    You state that “you want to be as transparent as possible” when blogging. Although transparency may be important to you and me, it’s not on everybody’s agenda.

    I would love to live in a world where we all respected each others opinions and did not impinge on other people’s rights (provided they were not hurting anyone else). I am a baby boomer and unfortunately I haven’t seen that happen in my lifetime.

    It doesn’t mean that I’ve given up hope that it could. Perhaps the Internet, people with your attitude towards openness – and blogging – can make it happen. And maybe if more people embrace transparency it will.

    I guess we’ll just have to be proactive and wait and see how this grand experiment unfolds over time.

  • Christine Andrews

    It seems that everyone who has left a comment believes that transparancy is important. The more interesting question is how do we ensure that the culture of transparancy is not lost. As social media is used more and more as a marketing tool instead of a community tool, I suspect that the culture of transparancy will start to be lost. How do we keep it alive?

  • Aixa

    Wow…. where are we? China?

    • derekshowerman

      Well considering we do not live in a communist society, I suppose that is a valid question. But even communist countries are starting to open up and listen to other countries. The world is changing- look no further in how Social Media pushed the envelope for change in Iran.

  • derekshowerman

    Christine, the answer to your question is at the end of my post: “What is more important is how you spark those conversations and react to negative sentiment or disagreeing points of view. Don’t shut it down, put the resources in place to react and inspire- even if it doesn’t jive with your opinion.”

    Resources are the answer. Moderation, facilitation and answering to all forms of opinion will be necessary to keep the transparent interactions coming. Where do those resources come from? I suspect companies will start migrating their customer service centers from a traditional calla nd answer center to a proactive monitor, comment, facilitate and yes…empower center. Classic CRM revolved around quick resolutions. In the new world it will be to answer the question, keep the conversation going (facilitating) and taking the value and reporting back to the organization.

    For example, if a customer doesn’t like the generic cookies Walmart has put out, the Walmart representative will engage, ask what needs to change and take that feedback and put it in the hands of a group of folks charged with innovation. Listening, engaging and having follow up actions based on that engagement will allow continued transparency. Simply ending the conversation at the cookie complaint won’t do anyone any good, nor would it endear the customer to Walmart. But actually listening and if enough customer feedback warrants change-then change builds brand affinity and continued two way conversations between customers and Walmart.

    The bottom line is a commitment to 2 way interaction involves resources to listen and react within the corporate policy. Here is what you do with negative sentiment, here is what you do with positive sentiment. Here is what you do when the competition engages. What cannot happen is having company policy stifling the conversation, because in the end, people are talking. They will talk about your brand somewhere else, so it is better to listen, engage and react than be blind to the conversation all together.

    Thank you to everyone who participated in today’s lively debate. I will be back on later to answer more questions.

  • Michael Flint

    I have to start by saying that the woman’s response to you was rude on any level. Period. But that aside, I’ve found people blog, and engage on many different levels, and for many reasons.

    I blog and connect on social channels to grow my network of friends, business partners, and clients. Because that line is very blurry – I generally treat all three groups as one. As long as the relationships are active, they’re healthy.

  • Stephanie Lowder

    Transparency > Social Media > Corporations > ROI:
    In advising clients @ social media, I’ve come to believe that Community Organization will be the hallmark of business & organizational success.

    We must build Bigger Communities to succeed. Any community comes all degrees of understanding, mis-understanding, and potential discord. So, managing social media IS a real corporate concern. It will require a lot of time, and it will require investment.

    Transparency will be required for any real ROI. So, the question is: Will businesses (corporate or individual) become Better Entities as a result of that requirement? Less short-sheeting? Less rehasing of old tired (often plagarized) ideas? More open? More customer-centric?

    In actually, they must. We with traditional mktg backgrounds (and social media skills) recognize so clearly, the first sentence in the first paragraph of Mktg 101: Customer Driven.

    And, if some customers are ill informed – that’s an opportunity to inform. If some are belligerent – that’s an opportunity to offer a brief reply with sincere intent to help, and then disengage.

  • Glenn Hilton

    I think you’re WRONG Derek. Well actually I don’t. I fully agree, but I just wanted to say that because everyone’s comments so far have been in agreement with you. 😉

    I chuckled as I read your post as I too got a request from a distinguished person with significant credentials to come and read their blog and give my feedback. Normally I’m not keen on this on first meeting someone as it feels like they’re only interested in having me promote what they’re doing or saying. But there approach was very warm and seemed sincere so I decided to visit. They too were writing just to boomers and wanted feedback, but when I read how they responded to people’s comments who didn’t share their view or who were not in their age demographic, I was somewhat disturbed and decided not to comment. After hearing what happened to you, I’m glad I didn’t waste my time as it may have well been the same individual.

    Great thoughts Derek. Thanks for inviting me and keep up the good work 🙂

  • Bill Bartmann-

    Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read…


  • Bill Bartmann

    I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..


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