Jul 082013
anonymous comments from online trolls damage the net

One of the truths of social media is it gives idiots an opportunity to expose themselves for what they are.

For businesses using social media idiots posting stupid or offensive content on the company’s site or Facebook page can do a lot of damage to their brand and reputation.

This is the problem Australian airline Qantas faced last week when some fool posted a pornographic image to one of the company’s promotions pages.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the father of an eight year old reported an inappropriate post to the airline after his son found the image while visiting the Qantas Wallabies page. He was allegedly told by the company’s social media staff “there was nothing we can do about it.”

The father points out correctly that both the airline and Facebook are 24 hour operations so claiming a post that is put up at midnight – one assumes Eastern Australian time – is out of hours seems to be disingenuous.

Until recently, businesses had given social media responsibilities over to the intern or the youngest person in the office. While organisations like Qantas have moved on from that, they largely leave these tasks with the marketing department.

While marketing is a valid place for social media responsibility – it’s probably the most obvious area to establish a return on the functions – it leaves organisations vulnerable to out of hours customer service and public relations problems.

Social media doesn’t knock off at 5pm and spend the evening a bar like the marketing department, it’s on all the time and customers are using it to complain about problems while twits and trolls are gleefully posting things to embarrass businesses.

For those businesses who do operate on a 24 hour basis, and probably all big corporations, it’s no longer good enough for the social media team to just operate during office hours.

Smaller businesses have a different problem – most don’t have the resources to keep a 24 hour watch on their Facebook page but the effects of a social media disaster could be proportionally far greater – so they shouldn’t be overlooking regular checks on what people have posted to their business sites.

What’s happening in social media is part of a broader trend in the global economy that’s been going on for thirty years as the pace of business has accelerated. It’s something that all managers, entrepreneurs and company owners need to understand.

  4 Responses to “Trolls never sleep – Social media and the twenty four hour business”

  1. Is it reasonable to expect that a company has 24/7 monitoring of every public facade they have? Would you equally blame a company for an indecent poster attached to one of their buildings that wasn’t attended until staff arrived the next morning?

    Perhaps a more appropriate solution is that Facebook provides built in controls with time restrictions on publicly viewable posts or graphics (assuming this feature doesn’t already exist)… at least that would be a more reasonable expectation than every 24/7 business (isn’t that any company with an online shopping cart?) having staff employed to constantly monitor them.

    • It’s not so much ‘blaming’ the company as pointing out that social media is more than just a 9 to 5 marketing channel – upset customers are posting to it, stirrers are creating problems and when things go wrong it’s a useful tool for judging what’s happening on the coalface.

      I agree it’s tough for most businesses to cover every channel and most simply don’t have the resources, but big corporates like Qantas can and should be a bit more on guard against silly SNAFUs like the SMH story.

      • Fair enough. I do think though that incidents such as this are more so a poor reflection on society and the public than on the company who is the victim. The company does have responsibility toward keeping their page free of inappropriate content, but there is only so much they can so and IMO the father’s anger is best directed at whoever posted/used the image on a public page. If the reports are true that he tried to blackmail QANTAS for free tickets, then shame on the father.

  2. Is it time for corporate entities to request the means to moderate posts prior to publication? It wont solve all of the inherent Social Media challenges we all face but will go further to complying with company guidelines.
    On a separate point, it’s interesting how the term troll is used with reckless abandon. I am reminded of the distinction between terrorists and freedom fighters. It’s all a matter of perspective. Does bagging QANTAS make you a troll or a critic?

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