Darren Barefoot pointed me to a great example of how companies should not respond to criticism in blog comments. He wrote a critical post on the email newsletter company Constant Contact and his readers pointed him to competitors in comments. Then, nearly 1 year later, this entry received 3 comments within 10 minutes, all from "people" touting their positive experiences with Constant Contact. Here's an example:
The thing is, their comments were traceable back to the company (as Darren's red arrows above illustrate). There is a clever person, sitting at a desk at Constant Contact headquarters, adding multiple fake comments to entries like Darren's.
Marketing lessons? Well, they should be obvious:
- Never lie. Youâ€™re going to get caught. Constant Contact should have just left a comment explaining the advantages of their service over the competition, plans for new features, and so forth.
- Join the conversation, donâ€™t try to spin it.
- If youâ€™re going to lie (and you surely shouldnâ€™t), donâ€™t be stupid about it. Understand how the Web works, and that if you comment from your desk at Constant Contact headquarters, that you may be traceable. And Iâ€™m no l33t hax0râ€“the evidence is right there in my notification email from WordPress.
This reminds me of Visible Technologies, that I wrote about here . They have touted their "thousands of personas registered with online forums" that can be used to balance negative/critical discussions. Maybe Constant Contact should have teamed up with them so that their lying would not have been as traceable. A match made in heaven .
My message: When it comes to dealing with your customer "community" in a responsible and productive way, there are no shortcuts. If you try to take the easy route, you are taking a big risk because you may end up creating more negative feelings and press that you ever imagined. Be real, be honest, be a person.
Case in point, this entry. I am telling my small part of the online world that Constant Contact appears to be making pathetic and dishonest attempts to balance criticism - and proving that Darren may have made the best decision in choosing a competitor, in his case, Campaign Monitor.
Aside: I think Constant Contact's tactic is called "astroturfing", derived from the brand of artificial grass used on sports fields. Artificial grass - articificial grassroots campaigns - I think you get it. More on Wikipedia.