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Like this article? We recommend Mistake 7: Over-Managing the Site

Mistake 7: Over-Managing the Site

Yes, members might use your community for public criticism of your company. No, you can't stop them. You'd better not even try.

In general, Internet users believe that they have the right to free speech on the Web. They understand that communities have standards of civil behavior, and if you censor content that's pornographic, spam-like, or otherwise clearly abusive, the community generally will approve. But if members feel that content is being censored or manipulated out of corporate self-interest, they'll revolt, and you're likely to be facing a public relations disaster. On the other hand, if you allow criticism of your company to be posted on your website, the result actually can be good PR. You're creating an atmosphere of transparency that engenders trust. The criticism can also be an opportunity for your company to post a polite and helpful response. If people can't publish their thoughts on your website, they'll probably publish them somewhere else. You may be much better off keeping the discussion on your company's turf, where you can participate in the conversation on your own terms. Ultimately, the free information you get by encouraging honest feedback from your customers may be as valuable to your company as the data coming from traditional market research.

Part of entering into Web 2.0 is letting go of some control. If your company won't be able to deal with that (and some can't), then you shouldn't launch a community website.

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