What if everything just went quiet? If you close your eyes and cover your ears, does it all just go away? Is no comment worse than actually saying, "no comment"?
The ability for anyone and everyone to have thoughts and publish them to the world has brought us all to a very interesting and curious intersection. There is tons of discussion around the value of these online conversations. From how to monitor them and analyze their worth, to how to comment and respond. Along with that, there are countless debates about which sectors are best suited to lead these conversations on behalf of brands. Is it the traditional advertising agencies, the public relations sector or the digital marketing agencies? Some of the better discussions are around forgetting all of that and working with a team that has experience, knowledge and a high level of strategic insight.
The conversation even shifts to the validity of those who dare call themselves, "Social Media Experts". Some say, the best people to engage are the ones who are actually, "walking the walk." The ones that have a healthy Blog or a reasonable amount of Twitter followers. Whatever path you choose, there might be one unique and strikingly obvious way to see if the people or agencies are the right fit for you:
Look at how they respond to the conversation. Both the kind and the critical.
Judy Gombita actually highlights this in the comment section of a post on PR Conversations titled, Who are you to criticise? What is the point of PR in social media?:
"...I've noticed a tendency lately in the social media realm where an 'active' individual (i.e., active in the space) has been criticized by name, usually relating to their online behaviour, and most often the critique is done in a blog post. In at least four cases, the individuals in question have not responded to the criticisms. Not as a comment, not as a blog post, not even as a tweet. (And we know that SM people are all into self-monitoring tools for personal and blog names, so it's not like they don't know about the criticisms.). The lack of response has been noted by more than one person and the feeling is that s/he hopes the 'problem' (or issue) will simply 'go away' with time, so there's no need to address or respond, in any channel."
It's pretty hard to sell clients on the power of these conversations, while at the same time some of the so-called "experts" and "gurus" are doing the exact thing that they would admonish their clients for.
This exact scenario has happened to me on numerous occasions. Someone will take something posted here, put their own spin on it (sometimes with obvious mistakes), and when those errors are pointed out in their comment section, they suddenly go silent. While this is personally insulting, it's not really the worst part. The worst part is when that Social Media Expert's readers see the post, don't bother to read through all of the comments, jump to their own conclusions and Blog, tweet and spread the maligned content further.
The real question is:
How are we going to sell the power of these online conversations to clients if we - as the leading practitioners - don't hold ourselves and the conversations accountable to a higher standard than the silence of no comment?