Ignoring Blog Comments & Other Nifty Social Media Lessons from Delta

Posted in Blogging, Rants

Here in Minnesota, we have a love/hate relationship with Delta Air Lines. It’s a very special decades-long relationship. We loved/hated it as our (former) hometown carrier Northwest Airlines, and even prior to that when it was known as Northwest Orient (for the elders among us who can remember ancient not-so-recent history).

We love that the airline plucked Minnesota from desolate flyover country, that we could get a direct flight practically anywhere in the U.S. as well as many international destinations. But we hated it when even the slightest delay caused minor travel inconveniences. We called it Northworst.

When the merger came, Northwest packed up and headed south, and took many of our friends and family with it, if they were lucky enough to keep their jobs. I’m not hating on Delta. Hell, I just got my Delta SkyMiles AmEx card, and I even wanted to work for the airline, because how wicked cool would it be to work in the travel industry? Pretty wicked cool (and not just for the practically free standby seat to anywhere the airline flies!).

In any case, I have a bone to pick with you, Delta. Kudos for being brave enough to create a corporate blog, and for your commitment to maintain it. Someone must have told you that publishing recurrent feed content has become an essential SEO tactic. But please, could you be a little more human? Passengers are asking you questions in your post comments and you’re ignoring them! What gives?

Take, for instance, this post about Delta’s Economy Comfort seating. Check out the 21 comments on the post. Of those, 11 had relevant questions that you chose to ignore.

Questions like:

  • Are you actually going to redoing [sic] aircraft to include these rows at the front of planes or are you basically just taking existing exit rows and bulkheads and calling them Economy Comfort?
  • Why not offer it at point of purchase instead of making the passenger go back and buy it later?
  • As a Silver, I book a seat and pay the fee for the Economy Comfort seat, then get upgraded either before check-in or at the gate. Do I get a refund for the Economy Comfort seat fee…?

Then there’s this gem in which the company previewed its new boarding pass layout. 15 comments! Not a peep from the author.

You don’t need to reply to all comments. You’ve got trolls. Many of the best blogs do. But you’ve also got loyal customers who are asking valid, genuine questions. And you’re not saying a word! Why? Even if the answer is something they don’t want to hear, at least they’ll know you’re listening. Not responding implies that you don’t care, and that your readers can take a hike (over to terminal 2) and fly that other red and blue airline with the nutty blog.

Why allow comments at all if you’re not going to respond to/engage with these individuals? Please, may we offer a bit of advice in dealing with blog comments?

The Good
They like you! They really, really like you! Acknowledge their delight. Thank them for the comment. It shows the reader you care, and can even turn the fans into evangelists (who may come to your defense against the haters).

The Bad
Assess the complaint. Is it something you can solve or address, or is there something you can offer to satisfy the customer? Is it out of your control? Either way, address the comment directly and politely. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention. Apologize for their experience, if applicable. Offer a resolution or a promise to bring it to the attention of someone with the power to resolve. If there’s nothing you can do, state the company’s position on the matter. An explanation probably won’t make them happy, but understanding the reasoning behind the policy/rule/whatever may cool them off.

The Ugly
You have to know when enough is enough. You’ll find that becomes intuitive. You may be tempted to delete the worst offenders, but you should really limit that to comments with profanity, libel, derogatory terms, and other such situations in which your inclination is to bring in the lawyers.

Remember, negative comments aren’t necessarily bad. They give you an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer. You can’t accomplish that with a silent-running mentality. Take a hint from @DeltaAssist. Do they respond to every Tweeted complaint to the satisfaction of the customer? Nope. But do they try? Absolutely. Think of the shiny “Publish” button as take-off. The captain doesn’t leave the cockpit after getting the plane into the air, nor should your authors let autopilot take over once the post is live. They have to stick around, particularly when turbulence strikes.

Image credit: Airplane (1980)
  • Gail Gardner

    This is excellent advice for ALL brands and every blog. Many bloggers are so obsessed with keeping spam off their blog that they delete valid comments even when they’re from other influential bloggers. At a minimum the person moderating a blog’s comments should click through and see WHO left the comment. If they are a blogger with a high quality blog think twice before you delete their comments. If they are a highly influential blogger with 20,000+ followers on Twitter you may want to think more than twice.

  • Lindsay Schleisman

    Thanks for your comment, Gail, and for the additional tips. Fabulous advice!

  • Brad Bauer

    Common sense. Social media is so easy because, all you’ve gotta do is behave yourself and have a bit of common sense. Which most airlines don’t, said the ten year American Airlines Platinum flyer.

  • Lindsay Schleisman

    Brad – Totally agree, and yet so many companies can’t seem to figure it out. By the way, got any horror stories you’d like to share?!

  • Erin Larson

    This is great insight, Lindsay! I love the real-life application. What’s your take: do big corporations (like Delta) just not care about commenting and responding to comments? Are there really any big companies that DO respond?

  • Lindsay Schleisman

    Erin, wow, sorry for the delayed reply! Isn’t it classy to not reply to a comment on a blog post about not replying to blog comments!? 😉 Anyway, I think the reason many large companies (particularly public companies) don’t reply to blog comments is the fact that, in many cases, everything published needs to get legal approval, so they may think it’s not worth the time to send all replies through the approvals process. Fear of litigation and posting something that could be construed as a forward-looking statement may also prevent replies. And then, of course, some of those companies still believe their blog is a broadcast mechanism, not a place to carry on a conversation. There’s a host of examples of small to mid-sized companies that do it right, and I have to imagine there’s at least one large company that does. If anyone’s got a great example, please feel free to share!