First, the image has nothing to do with the post. But I wanted to put something in, so a notebook. P.S. My Cherry-covered Field Notes notebooks have held up quite well at media events.
The other day, in my post about the new Lenox tool cabinet, I manually approved a comment that was somewhat agreeable, but a little snarky if not critical of Stanley Black & Decker. Something about the comment made me dig deeper, and I discovered that it was made by someone affiliated with another tool brand that competes with SBD in a number of major product categories.
How would you like it if Stanley Black & Decker associates replied similarly to posts about your brands’ products?
I have zero tolerance policy for this type of commenting.
Maybe I overreacted a little bit, but it seems some people missed my point completely, thinking my response was to the comment itself when it wasn’t.
It’s inappropriate for someone from one brand to comment about a competing brand unfavorably while omitting or masking their affiliations.
While the comment in question is maybe a 0.5 on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being completely harmless and 10 being the worst anti-competitor comment you can think of, I have to be robotic when it comes to my response.
In this case, the email address used was so silly I thought it was fake and made up on the spot.
I’ve been duped before, and a couple of times at that. When I’m duped, you’re duped.
Once, an OEM for a retailer’s hand tool brand posted numerous praising comments for a gimmicky holiday season tool.
Another time, a rep for a company that makes certain tools for a major tool truck brand slammed competing products in a discussion post about them.
There was a time when a marketing rep for a company pasted an extremely favorable “testimonial” that I saw was also posted on numerous other blogs and forums, verbatim.
There have been many “insider comments” that share information, details, and advice. I’ll usually know that the comment is from someone at a tool brand, but if they’re helping in an objective way, I leave it alone.
But when someone affiliated with a tool brand or retailer is overly praising, or critical about competing products or companies, I have to be robotic in my response.
Most offending comments are meant with the best intentions, but there are some that are misleading, maybe even deceitful.
Someone who works at Brand A might really believe that their product is superior to Brand B’s. But there’s an inherent bias there. I am obligated to call out comments that cannot be taken at face value. Everyone has personal opinions, and these experiences can be drawn from experiences, preferences, and even biases.
But if there’s the chance that there’s a professional bias?
Even comments that are true, or could be true, can be problematic. I can’t have comments sections turning into marketing wars.
Can you imagine if competing brands’ engineers and product managers started arguing with each other in comments?
Helpful information is absolutely allowed. Sometimes an engineer or product manager wants to chime in with or about a detail, and that’s okay.
I’ve been talking with the commenter – and apologized for what might have been an overreaction.
I handle every discovered comment in different ways. Sometimes an “admin note” is added in bold red text within an offending comment. Sometimes it will be deleted. In this case, I wanted to call them out, but without identifying the brand connection.
There’s no manual on how to do this job, and I’m not immune to making mistakes.
When I investigate a comment on the spot, sometimes it’s just a new or regular reader with a strong opinion. But if I can find a corporate connection? If I ignore it, I risk emboldening the commenter to continue such behavior in the future.
If someone is telling you how much they LOVE Brand A’s tool, or how Brand B’s tools are vastly superior to Brand A’s, wouldn’t you want to know if that person worked for Brand A or B?
The comment that sparked all this was about as harmless a post as can be, but there’s no telling what professional bias could have been in there. Maybe the brand wanted to be bought by SBD but was turned down. Maybe their products were not picked up by a major retailer that instead chose to stock a competing SBD product.
I read each and every comment. (Sometimes it takes me longer to get to comments to Ben’s posts, because they go to his email and not mine.) Every now and then I will discover an affiliation long after a comment is written.
Here’s how to get under my radar:
1: Don’t excessively praise your company or their products without making your affiliation known.
2: Don’t talk smack about competitors or their products.
There are some fun times, though.
There was once a comment that I left alone, where someone affiliated with a tool brand said bad things about their own product. They said:
Horrible [redacted]. More like “[redacted]”. Typical crap [redacted], nothing new.
Ha! That’s about their own company’s product! A reader replied to the comment, defending the product. I would say that self-deprecating comments are allowed, but then there’s the question about why this person is bashing their own brand’s stuff.
As mentioned above, there’s no manual on how to do this right. Sometimes I do take “insider comments” personally, as if they’re trying to get one by me. And there were times when that has been the case, where there were undeniable efforts to try to trick me into thinking comments were made by real readers.
I’m on alert for these kinds of things, and am always on alert. If someone replies to someone else in a comment “I wonder if you work for Company A,” chances are I’ve already checked it out 3 different ways.