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Your comment is ‘awaiting moderation’

January 14, 2011
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I wondered how long it would be before the ‘self-styled’ social media and web engagement gurus decided that they didn’t much care to be that social or that engaged – unless of course it’s very much on their terms. Seemingly, it doesn’t take much for the shutters to slam down and the ‘awaiting moderation’ signs to pop up. Remember, these are the sort of folks who espouse the need to be open and transparent via social media channels, be ready to respond 24/7 and offer ‘freedom of speech’.

Let’s take Alterian for example, a company that talks endlessly about ‘engagement’ via a blog called ‘Engaging Times’. Firstly, they seem to have a lot of problems working out how WordPress, their blogging solution of choice, works with regards to comments or are perhaps struggling to devolve this responsibility to other members of staff – as there is a real mix of behaviours on the site when you make a comment. Sometimes it displays straight away, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it displays and then disappears again to ‘await moderation’ – which seems a rather bizarre way of doing things. And, most recently, the site was apparently displaying the comments made by those outside the company and not displaying the responses made by staff. Hmmm – all pretty ‘unengaging’ in the general scheme of things and a bit ironic seeing as one of their core product lines is Web Content Management Systems. Maybe this lack of operational expertise when it comes to managing engagement on their blog is because they don’t actually get much engagement. In fact, my comments probably amount to the majority of those ever made on the site. It’s not as if I haven’t tried. The real irony here is that organisations that talk about the need to move from broadcasting information to listening and ‘engaging’ are actually ‘broadcasting’ about tens times the volume of information than they ever did before. It also reminds me of those generals in the First World War who happily sent waves and waves of the young, powerless and naive onto the battlefields while rarely venturing out of an office or a trench themselves.

I tried recently to engage around the topic of using social media monitoring to predict the X Factor result but they didn’t take too kindly to me asking for a deeper level of information on ‘how’ they supposedly did that and when I did a similar exercise for the Strictly Come Dancing and Apprentice finals my comment on their site explaining this never made it through ‘moderation’ – no doubt that good old ‘spam filter’ opt-out clause will be the reason. Again – it’s just not very engaging. My latest comment to be ‘awaiting moderation’ regards my genuine concern for the organisation that they are aligning themselves too closely with that notorious ‘one-to-one hustler’ Don Peppers who has not won favours in the marketing community in recent years. It’s a genuine concern so I hope the comment makes it through ‘moderation’ or a good reason is provided for it being rejected.

Then we come to Gilbane, an analyst organisation and division of Outsell (perhaps SellOut would be more appropriate) that helps practitioners select the best technology for their needs – under the statement on their homepage that they help you make “vendor-neutral well-informed decisions”. Now I am of the opinion that analyst’s should be open at all times about the clients they are working with and producing research for, particularly as the analysts portray themselves as ‘trusted advisors’. I think we should have a clear understanding of who has paid for those ‘thought leadership’ whitepapers to be produced so we can put the comments and advice in the proper context. Personally, I find it hard to reconcile the phrase “vendor-neutral” with a page like this particularly having attended a couple of webinars recently.

When I made a comment recently relating to an organisation Gilbane is being hired by, surprise, surprise that comment is now ‘awaiting moderation’ on the particular analyst’s blog and this comes just a few hours after I was assured that comments weren’t “moderated, denied, hidden or deleted” – except comments relating to transparency clearly. (As per comments below, I have been advised that this statement is ‘factually incorrect’ as Artificial Solutions are not currently a client of the Gilbane Group).

I’m not surprised that it takes so little for the “do as we say, not as we do” mentality to rise up in these circumstances and it just goes to show the degree of fallacy and hypocrisy that exists in the wonderful world of ‘social media’.

(As a postscript, I like the ‘Pay to Play’ – Analyst Mating Dance diagram in this post from a couple of years ago, which also contains a quote/link to a very wise piece by ‘vendor-averse’ analyst Tony Byrne on the game to ‘manufacture artificial demand’ – Hmm – perhaps vendors who play games like that should be called something like ‘Artificial Solutions’ - just a thought ;) )

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2011 11:39 am

    Hi James,

    I think the page you link to on the Gilbane Group site demonstrates transparency, a part of our business is that we write papers that free for the consumer, but are sponsored by vendors and that’s well known in the industry (for many, many years) and very clear on our website and in each paper.

    Our consulting clients know this also, there is no intent to hide that fact – it is down the integrity of the analyst to advise the client on best fit from an informed, yet neutral stand point and for the client to judge this advice.

    To your point about moderation on my blog, at some point during the process of you leaving 18 comments on my blog yesterday Akismet (the spam filter) stepped in and as soon as you pointed this out I published your comments.

    There is one comment I held back in the moderator queue as you were not factually correct and I wanted to let you know, we had an email conversation about it. Artificial Solutions are not presently a client of Outsell’s Gilbane Group.

    Ian

    @iantruscott

  2. January 14, 2011 12:08 pm

    Hi Ian,

    Thanks for your comment.

    The comment I made on your blog that you held back is ‘factually correct’ as I made no reference in that comment to Artificial Solutions being a Gilbane client. Now that you have corrected me on the incorrect assumption made in the blog post, I will correct it – apologies for the mistake.

    As I said yesterday – thank you for letting me know about the spam filter. In future I will combine my comments to avoid them being blocked. However, if you expect and hope folks to ‘engage’ via your blog then they will be commenting to each other at some point about things that they agree or disagree with. I won’t hold back in challenging somebody else on a comment if it whiffs of hypocrisy or ‘echo chamber ‘ commentary.

    Personally, I felt the tone of your comment with reference to me in that particular post was condescending and follows similar such condescending comments from your colleague at Gilbane in recent weeks. I’d also be surprised if Andy didn’t find reference to the conversation you had with him as condescending too – as from my dealings with him – he seemed pretty switched on when it came to understanding website requirements and also had a good insight into technology. It’s also interesting that your old colleague Stewart felt compelled to add his views on your line of thinking.

    Anyway – good to get the Artificial Solutions thing out in the open so that we know when Gilbane starts pushing ‘intelligently’-routed, multi-touchpoint customer service solutions as the next big thing we’ll have some context to put it in.

    Cheers

    James

  3. February 11, 2011 9:03 am

    As it’s coming up for a month and my comments are still ‘awaiting moderation’ on http://www.engagingtimes.com/ I am assuming that either a) Alterian still hasn’t figured out how WordPress works or b) they are now very sensibly following ‘The Rules of Engagement’, as defined very wisely by organisations such as the US Air Force and very usefully published here…http://www.globalnerdy.com/2008/12/30/the-air-forces-rules-of-engagement-for-blogging/

    If point b) is the case, it’s somewhat ironic that this type of advice on ‘Engaging’ was kicking around before ‘Engaging Times’ existed and is based on experiences of ‘social media’ that go back many years now.

    New age marketers beware! The technology may be slicker, faster and used by many more people… but the people themselves haven’t changed!

    Also, with regard to the topic of analyst disclosure mentioned in this post there has been an interesting response to a question I asked on Quora http://www.quora.com/Should-analyst-organisations-who-advise-clients-on-technology-purchases-be-transparent-about-who-pays-for-their-research?no_redirect=1 . This quite rightly highlights the FTC guidelines on blogging and disclosure and makes the point that smaller analyst operations “may have to disclose things that today are murky at best”

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/adv/bus71.shtm

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