Editor Vikki Chowney describes how the company has decided to turn off comments on the blog:
“Each post is clearly marked as having its comments turned off. How exactly is Scroggins [the named blogger] planning to respond if people can’t leave a comment? A completely unnecessary barrier has been put in place here, as readers are expected to find the email address at the bottom of each post and send thoughts over that way.
“It’s most likely that National Rail doesn’t want other customers to see negative comments, but unfortunately that thinking just doesn’t work anymore. Many people expect things to be out in the open nowadays – they look at what other people have to say and then base their opinion of the brand on its response.”
This is a common affliction for brands looking to get involved in social media. They bring old media mindsets to social channels, which essentially means they aren’t actually engaging or being social at all. Too many companies think that just because they broadcast information on a blog or Twitter they are ‘doing’ social media. They aren’t! They are doing traditional media on channels that have the potential to be social!
To be fair to National Rail Enquiries, they did respond to the post, with ‘Lisa‘ saying:
“We’re glad people are reading, and having a discussion about what would make the blog better. At the moment we respond to comments we’ve received through the blog email – as you say, at first the blog was anonymous – we got comments saying this wasn’t what people wanted, so we changed it. That being said, having seen the volume / types of comments we’ve received, I think it’s likely that we’ll enable comments going forward.
“…My role was created in October, and part of it is specifically to look after our social media presence, and things are now beginning to change. Recently, we’ve started interacting more – where people comment on our services or ask questions through Twitter about us, I reply where I’ve got something useful to say. As things move on, I expect that our level of discussion will only get broader, it just takes a bit of time, and a bit of convincing!”
And this nicely sums up the problem that so many brands have using social media. The logistical challenges of using social channels are obvious and well documented. What is harder to pin down in the ‘convincing’ element; proving to (usually) those in senior positions, why engaging with customers might be scary, but can be incredibly beneficial.
Step by step isn’t bad
I applaude NRE for being honest, open and transparent – it goes a long way in social media – and indeed, I don’t actually think the gradual, progressive approach that they seem to be taking is necessarily a bad thing, especially if it allows a brand to readjust itself so that when it is ready to become fully social, it does so with enough understanding and awareness of what it is letting itself in for.