Raz Chorev | Socially Acceptable..
Social media

The consequences of censorship in the Social Media era

Social media, is about engagement. It is a PR / Advertising professional’s worst nightmare – no longer just broadcasting a message – now it is a two way street. Messages are not only broadcasted, they are now commented upon. Moreover, the audience is now creating their OWN messages about the brands [companies, products, service providers] they interact with, as well as expressing their own opinion on the brand’s broadcasted message, as I’m about to do here:

Let me start with a compliment. I LOVE Oporto’s burgers! I think they are delicious, the chips are great and the portions are generous.
However…

I was disappointed today, to go into my local Oporto franchise, in Rose Bay, NSW. I checked in FourSquare, and realized they have a special on:

Every 5th check-in, a free upgrade with every meal.

I approached the store manager, and innocently asked: “How do you monitor check-ins on foursquare, in order to give the special?”
She looked at me, puzzled. Not knowing what Foursquare is, she started mumbling…I thanked her for the meal, and left her alone….
I went onto the Oporto website [http://www.oporto.com.au/] to see a home page with a YouTube video, and all the Twitter and Facebook comments.. I got excited – here’s a company who’s embracing social media.

But I realized they embrace the technology, and not the spirit. They understand that many people (their clients] are using Facebook and Twitter extensively, so they should use it for their advantage. Good move!
But then, I dug a little deeper…

Oporto’s website has a floating plugin, asking for our comments and input. Kinda like the Feedback plugin, but pointing, onto a box to sign in with the Twitter/Facebook account. That’s cool. So I signed in with my Twitter account, and wanted to post a comment, about my in-store experience. First time there was an error [the website “sensed” it wasn’t a nice comment]. I refreshed the page, comment was posted, and I received this this nice message :

THANKS FOR POSTING YOUR MOMENT.

It’ll appear in your stream immediately and
posted to the Oporto website after being reviewed.

Social Media Censorship - Oporto

Social Media Censorship - Oporto

WTF??? Censorship on Social Media?? Are you serious?? What, only good comments should go on your social media channels?

Ok, so this is what happens, when you try to censor on social media. Comes along someone like me, get more than a little annoyed with someone trying to shoosh him, and broadcast my experience in my own channels. Moreover, because I’m annoyed now, I’ll go the extra mile, and make sure as many people as possible know about my experience. This could have been avoided, by letting me express my opinion, where they asked for it – on their website. Oporto’s HQ person, who deals with customer complaints, would [I assume] have contacted me privately, and that would’ve been that.

Look, I only wanted to express my opinion where they asked me to comment. Since my comment was moderated, I felt that my right to express my opinion was denied. And that is the consequence of censorship in the Social Media era. IMHO!

Is this an isolated case of social media, misunderstood? Did you come across any other examples? please comment below…

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  • http://www.twitter.com/digitalgodess Stephenie Rodriguez

    Raz – well spotted. I too live in the Eastern Suburbs and have seen the Oporto #4sq offer every where I check in (Westfield, Double Bay, etc.) but haven’t attempted to redeem it. (If I ate burgers I would start looking like one…lol.)
    I agree that companies who are using the social web to attract consumers should do more than pay lip-service to those who are engaged enough to participate with them. Your post will no doubt incite debate and will probably be most heated within Oporto headquarters where the big boys will say “Here you go, I told you social media was dangerous and we shouldn’t go below the line.”
    Posting all comments (without moderation), addressing negative comments in a timely manner and demonstrating that they are listening will be about the only way they can come good from this.
    What do you think?
    Steph

  • http://www.waynemansfield.com Wayne Mansfield

    I attack [yes attack!] bad customers service by creating a video and posting it to YouTube… see what happens when you search for” Wayne Mansfield Qantas” and that get there attention

  • http://www.chronicinfholic.com Infoholic

    First a question. Did you wait a reasonable amount of time (e.g. one or two business days) to confirm that your comment was actually censored rather than just moderated? Your blog post does not prove your comment was censored. It only proves that Oporto has chosen to implement a comment moderation process.

    Second a comment. While I generally agree with your comment you seem to think that every user of the WWW is a sensible and reasonable person who will only post a positive comment or a respectful and well thought, negative comment.

    Unfortunately the users of the WWW are a subset of society as a whole and society contains a non-trivial number of irresponsible idiots. These idiots are the sort of people who would post something stupid (e.g. some sort of grossly socially unacceptable) on the Oporto site just for fun and mischief.

    I ask you as a PR and advertising professional the following question: What would be the worse problem to solve? Some negative feedback from the digerati because Oporto moderated and possibly censored some client feeback? Or the storm of mainstream negative media coverage because Oporto let some sort of socially unacceptable comment be posted to and remain of their site for some period of time?

    Steve

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      To answer your question – No, I didn’t wait for the comment to be moderated. There is a BIG difference between spam moderation, and policy-guided message saying: [your message will be] “posted to the Oporto website after being reviewed.” I’m not moderating the messages, they are.
      Also – I’m not “begging” for comments, by using a floating widget or plugin asking for them, as a feature on the home page. If you ask for feedback, you’d better be prepared to handle it. This is not the testimonial page. On the HOME page, Oporto’s are using a “live feed” feature, but choose to moderate it. That’s wrong!

      As I’m NOT a PR/Advertising professional, but a digital marketing guy, I dread negative comments on the “digerati”. They can spread like wild fire. One negative comment on their home page, amongst the other testimonials, will quickly disappear.

  • http://www.chronicinfholic.com Infoholic

    I just noticed the following message next to my previous blog post:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    An interesting irony.

    Regards,
    Steve

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Steve, your message have been moderated because:
      You didn’t provide your full name.
      You didn’t provide a valid URL
      You didn’t provide a valid email address.
      Akismet, WordPress’ spam filter, has considered your comments to be SPAM.

      Not ironic anymore, is it?

  • http://www.tjpblog.com.au Leighton Jenkins

    Raz

    I am not sure if this is a social media issue or a broader de-emphasis on customer service – where its now viewed purely as a cost and few companies take it as a strategic position. You can tell the difference!

    lj

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Sure can, Leighton. And that’s the price of implementing tactics before strategy.

  • Nathan

    I think the issue here is that you’ve confused two very different things. Whilst your observations seem correct in places, Infoholic raises a very strong point. I’m not sure enough information exists at the moment to draw a strong enough conclusion.

    The fact that Oporto chooses to review the content that is being published on their own website (they aren’t stopping your opinion going to your friends) is their right. You’ve assumed ‘censorship’, but the process could quite reasonably be there for moderation. And they should moderate – the web is not all roses and politeness and offensive and libellous content shouldn’t be published. Whilst most people will realise if it was published that its not the view of Oporto (which is an option for them to simply publish a statement as such) Oporto seems to have chosen the right to review.

    But yes, your observation that all published comments are positive suggests that (a) Oporto is perfect or (b) they are only publishing positive comments – which is quite naive. If that decision stems from being afraid of airing negative sentiment then Oporto has some lessons to learn.

    1. Oporto doesn’t own conversations about Oporto.
    2. A positive resolution to a negative comment can reflect stronger than a negative comment.
    3. The public are smart enough to realise that there is always negative experiences and will forgive those that try to fix them.

    A further observation is that the Oporto Facebook page also seems quite ‘positive’. So it will be interesting to see what happens – and if Oporto hasn’t yet picked up this discussion, then they aren’t as advanced as they may think.

    The issue I have though is that you seem to have drawn your conclusions and published findings without going to much effort. The web and blogs have allowed people to publish their views to the world, but those views aren’t always accurate or informed. I’m not saying you are incorrect – we don’t know yet. But would it not have been responsible of you to call Oporto HQ and get the facts about why they are set up in such a way before posting this?

    As you say, you have the right to present your view in your own forum – I just feel that perhaps this article is based on a hunch and assumption.

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Nathan, as this is not a court case, in which I have to substantiate my assumptions, you are right. I have not contacted the head office, to inquire about their PR/Customer relations policies and the way they handle negative comments. I make assumptions based on my observations and personal experience… I do think, however, that my assumptions are backed by screenshots as “evidence” (YOUR observation about Oporto’s Facebook page is another “evidence” substantiating my assumptions). I have a personal blog, in which I express my opinions, not prosecute companies.
      I’m not sure about the “confusion of two different things” you started your comment with, though. Are you referring to the Foursquare issue? Yes, you are right. It has nothing to do with censorship, just mismanagement. But that was the trigger, which prompted me to write this blog post. It’s the misunderstanding of Social Media as a marketing tool, and using tactics without a well-thought-through strategy, which I’m ranting about.

      • Nathan

        I was referring to the fact that the review of submissions doesn’t in itself equate to censorship (your post suggests that the mechanic is censorship). That needs to be split from the non-publication of negative sentiment. That’s all.

        Whilst you’re right and this isn’t a court case, I’d be really interested to see what Oporto actually has to say. Do they not get any negative feedback? Are they afraid to post it? Do they not have a plan to deal with it? Maybe that’s another post though :)

  • http://www.chronicinfoholic.com Steve Remington

    Email and website typos corrected. I wonder how Akismet will treat this post? (BTW: No snark intended here. I’m just curious from a technical perspective what Akismet will do with my post now that the field are correct).

    Unfortunately every company’s use of social media has not matured to the level of a company like Zappos. Hopefully this will happen soon but until then we all have to “fight the good fight” and through the most appropriate channels try to convince companies such as Oporto that fully embracing the spirit of social media is a good thing that has more positives than negatives.

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Steve, akismet has again moderated your last comment, as it came from the sames IP as before. FYI.

      • http://www.chronicinfoholic.com Steve Remington

        Akismet is a fussy gatekeeper. It appears I am forever classified as a potential spammer, at least on this site any way :-)

  • http://www.iggypintado.com.au Iggy Pintado

    In the short time I’ve been observing and monitoring the use of social media, one thing is clear: Some get it and some don’t.

    I’ve learnt to live with the frustration of this and to be patient with those who need to learn and catch on.

  • http://www.pollenmarketing.com.au Natalie Giddings

    Hi Raz,

    I am afraid I agreed with Nathan and Infoholic even before I read their comments. While I can see your point, I too think that monitoring is necessary. Automatically jumping to the conclusion that they are censoring is ill-advised.

    I just popped over to the page in questions and check out this un-censored comments.

    http://www.screencast.com/users/NatalieGiddings/folders/Jing/media/bbd3029f-4130-4c04-9ec5-411781484668

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      @Natalie
      If you think monitoring is necessary on your website, maybe social media is not the right solution on your homepage. Social media is about engagement, good or bad. I’m not sure what is the logic behind the decision to place all the social media channels on Oporto’s home page. For me the spirit of social media has been somewhat misunderstood, by manually monitoring (censoring) comments.
      You can always have a testimonial page, and a suggestion box for comments. Since they “insisted” on me telling them about my “moment”, I did. I was under the impression my comment would be automatically shared on the site. I was wrong. Jason, Oporto’s National Marketing Manager, explained why. Although I accept his explanation, I still disagree on the execution.

  • http://www.oporto.com.au Jason Piggott

    Thankyou for your blogpost on the new Oporto campaign which launched 3 weeks ago. We
    welcome any feedback (both positive and negative) you have about Oporto’s first foray into
    the world of social media or just Oporto in general.

    In relation to your comments around Foursquare at the Oporto Rose Bay store. Absolutely a
    fair comment and something that we have been closely monitoring. Due to the nature of our
    business, educating our franchisees on new marketing tools is an ongoing process and then
    cascading this down through the crew at the coal face is challenging! This isn’t an excuse;
    we’ll continue to work hard on educating all of our team on our marketing initiatives and in
    particular those that we are deploying through the digital channel and how these actually
    work.

    In regards to your comments (and others responses) about the way Oporto moderates
    content on the website homepage, we encourage all to review the “Terms of Use” policy.
    This policy was devised based on those created by other big brands such as McDonald’s
    and Coca-Cola. Oporto moderates multiple times p/day (excluding weekends) to filter
    out “unlawful, misleading, malicious or discriminatory content”, but does include both positive & negative sentiment made about the brand (click ‘See Some More’ to see all approved
    posts). This policy has proven to be extremely important for Oporto, as racist, sexist and
    explicit comments have been made via the page/plug-ins during this campaign. In addition, as
    the feeds pull content from each API, Oporto must remove references to ‘Oporto’ the place,
    and the common surname ‘Oporto’ thereby ensuring content featured remains relevant and
    non-explicit. This policy isn’t designed to hide behind as a brand, but rather to ensure that our
    homepage reflects generally accepted community standards around comments on the page.

    In relation to negative comments and feedback, as can be seen from the Oporto Facebook
    page, negative feedback has to date been minimal from a social networking perspective. That
    doesn’t mean that we do not receive negative feedback, of course we do, when you serve 14
    million plus customers per year you are going to get negative feedback. Most of the negative
    feedback from customers and Oporto fans is normally provided via our various feedback
    systems (online, in-store, phone) and are actioned by the Oporto Support Office. In relation to
    other comments within the social networking space – we continue to monitor discussions and
    comments on both our brand and competitors so that we can continue to improve the Oporto
    offer.

    One final note on the Facebook page, this was actually created by an Oporto fan over 2
    years ago, and we have only recently started working with this fan with the aim of designing
    cool new campaigns specifically for this audience. We have never moderated any comment
    posted by a visitor on this page (and we still don’t), as our strategy is to let our fans run it
    themselves, which they do by responding to fellow fans’ experiences.

    We hope this explains our position on moderation, and that you continue to engage with Oporto online & offline. We value all experiences as they help to improve our products, customer service, and ultimately the way we advertise our brand to you.

    Kind regards,
    Oporto Marketing

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Jason
      Thank you for taking the time to reply to this blog post. I do understand the need to protect the website from “unlawful, misleading, malicious or discriminatory content”. As this is “Oporto’s first foray into the social media world”, I appreciate your detailed response, and the time you’ve taken to read and understand the post and sentiment of the discussion following this post.
      I hope you, and the Oporto’s marketing team can build on this discussion, for improved engagement with your customers in the future.

      If I can make a recommendation – on the message advising of the review, please expand on the topic, and explain why comments need to be moderated. Even a link to your site T&C on that message, will be useful.

      Best regards
      Raz

  • http://Www.thenumbersgame.com.au Leanne Berry

    Hi Raz

    Thanks for highlighting this post to me on Twitter. It’s great to see that Oporto has taken the opportunity to provide you with a reasonable and detailed explanation.

    I too do not like to have my comments moderated. Social media is about engagement and I feel that there are too many businesses, generally at the big end of town who are hiding behind a catch all social policy to “moderate” commentary on there social media pages and websites – there are many ways to block unlawful, misleading, malicious and in particular discriminatory comments through the use of key word blacklists, anti-spamming tools, etc While I understand and respect the need to protect a company’s reputation, they also need to understand that customers are craving the engagement that social media affords.

    What I find more interesting is that Oporto would be happy to allow a promotion such as this foursquare deal without ensuring that their franchisee’s understood and were trained on this promotion – this I feel is a very poor marketing strategy. Perhaps this would be a good time for them to engage professionals who understand the social media sphere to advise them and provide the correct training to their franchisee’s and staff

    Cheers

    Leanne
    Maximizing Your Business Profits

  • http://www.paulwallbank.com Paul Wallbank

    This is an interesting debate between those who take a management view of the world and those who come with a social media perspective.

    The latter have the “publish and be dammed” view of the world, that “transparency” is the best attitude and all posts, fair or foul are fine.

    This view is anathema to those responsible for maintaining the brand and ensuring their business doesn’t fall foul of defamation and other laws by those who see the Internet as an opportunity to cause mischief.

    Personally, I’m on the side of the managers. They have to ensure comments are socially acceptable to prevent the business falling foul of the law or upsetting customers.

    What Raz’s experience really shows is the importance that businesses ensure their staff are adequately trained.

    It’s encouraging Jason from Oporto’s marketing team has acknowledged this and indicates they will work on this aspect of their operations.

  • http://myproactivelife.com Andrew Blanda

    Raz, I’m just wondering if perhaps you were expecting ‘instant’ response/verification that your feedback (moment) was recieved, and not allowed the Oporto Support Office to perform their daily/regular routine of working through support issues and feedback?

    There was a great opportunity here to improve things for Oporto (your original intention with your feedback), however can see why you were incensed at the thought of censorship. Perhaps a phone-call would have resolved this in a more efficient manner (I’m now channeling a wise sage who told me that a phone call can do wonders at the right time:-) )

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Andrew – Great comment! Using the phone is not a bad idea to submit feedback, however it has limitations as well. The website allows for 24/7 interaction, and allows a customer to leave feedback when it is convenient for the customer, without consideration of office open-for-business hours.
      Also, I was expecting instant verification that my “moment” has, not only been received, but I expected to see it live on the site, like you would expect to see any other Twitter/Facebook streams. When the entire home page is dedicated to Facebook and Twitter tiles, it is EXPECTED to behave like a live stream. Especially when the floating widget was “chasing” me to share my moment.
      There is still a great opportunity here to improve things for Oporto, and Jason’s comment makes me think they are open for suggestions, and they appreciate the constructive feedback.

  • http://www.sarahallenconsulting.com.au Sarah Allen

    Hi Raz, thanks for showing me this post and commentary via my Facebook page.

    One question I always wonder about with the Foursquare world, and which you touched on briefly: who can substantiate the number of actual ‘checkins’ by a person in a location, to qualify for the discount? And do you have to just ‘be’ in (or near) the store, or should a purchase be made? Some of the ettiquette around Foursquare and how it qualifies you for your loyalty discount is still to be understood.

    Having said that, I completely agree with Iggy Pintado’s comment that some peeps ‘get it’ and others are not in that headspace. I work and talk and collaborate and educate those who see the value of social media and those who want to know more. As for the others, I too wait until they have the ‘lightbulb’ moment and see what’s in it for them and their business. It’s not a matter of if, but when!

    Thanks for giving me the heads up on this discussion and I’d be interested to get any thoughts on the Foursquare check-in etiquette you may have!

    • http://www.razchorev.com Raz Chorev

      Sarah, thanks for stopping by…
      Regarding Foursquare etiquette – I was wondering the same thing, when I approached the store manager. As you know, you don’t ACTUALLY have to be in a place in order to check in. Also Foursquare (as far as I know) will only display the number of Check-ins in the last 2 months, so I’m not sure how long a promotion like this will be valid for, and how it could be managed.
      Regardless, the point I was making, is that the tactic (4Sq promotion) was carried out, without strategic thinking (educating employees?!?) or understanding the tool and it’s limitations.

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  • Massimiliano Amagliani

    Hi Raz,

    I think there a thiny edge between complete freedom od expression and the need to check what people pst.

    But here the real poin is that Oporto, like most business, do a lot of talking about feedbak and being open to their customers but in fact they are really frigthened by real unfiltered feedback from they’re customers.

    i think social media is playing a big role in changing all this and that we’ll see a lot of changes.
    Max

  • Ron Tedwater

    Great work keep it coming

  • Mike

    I really loved this post. You write about this topic very well. Good Marketing Strategies helps expand the business in the right way.

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