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Should a brand respond to YouTube comments?


When it comes to social media conduct for brands the rules may well be unwritten – but they're definitely worth considering

March 3, 2013 6:33 by

At the recently held Bold Talks, du’s Osman Sultan talked about the three phases of the internet. The first phase starting from 1995 saw people viewing the internet as a library — the internet was an authority on subjects, a place where users logged on to get information. This was followed by the second phase of e-commerce and business. The corporations took to the internet and users logged on to buy flight tickets and the like. And now, Sultan says, we live in the third phase: the age of social media and the active user. This is a phase where users log on, not just to consume content, but also produce it.

This transformation of the internet has significant implications for brands. The extent of user interaction is revolutionising the way brands perceive the internet and also how they interact with fans. Brands know they need to get on to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and the like, but a question that still needs to be answered is: what should brands do once they have a considerable social media presence?

There are multiple possible answers to the question, but for the purposes of this article I am more concerned with one particular aspect which is feedback. For some reason, I found myself on Etihad’s YouTube page, and as I looked at an ad the company had posted more than nine months ago, I was very surprised to see that not only is the brand  still receiving comments, but it is also still responding to comments.

Comments on the internet are a tricky subject. While the potential that the comment section holds for most brands is vast, it is one that is very rarely realised. For starters, the prevalence of trolls poses a significant challenge to the possibility of an intelligent exchange with a brand. But should this be the reason brands cut themselves off?

Conventional wisdom would suggest being selective with choosing one’s battles, but then there is the question of choosing the right medium for such battles. Facebook and Twitter, the more traditional channels of interaction maybe a better source to answer such questions, which could make one wonder whether comments on Youtube should be answered. Also, the massive influx of YouTube comments may mean your response is lost in a sea of SPAM and vulgarity.

Of course, if you do chose to reply to a comment, there is the question of sincerity. Providing a generic ‘we have forwarded your concern to customer service’ type response, may do more harm than good. Which makes us think if you are choosing a staff member to be the social face of your organisation, you need to empower them with the ability to make decisions which can affect their customers.

But even after all of this, does it make sense to respond to users on YouTube? While we think that the question is subjective to the comment, we would be interested in hearing your response.

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