Coca Cola’s House Rules for Blogging

Yesterday I tweeted about Coca Cola’s new corporate blog Coca Cola Conversations. I was deeply impressed by the notion of a company like Coke having a blog open to the public. Then I discovered the House Rules, which went like this:

We want you to leave comments and ask us questions on this blog. However, we will review all comments before they go live, and will not post any that are inappropriate or offensive. We will only post comments that relate to the subjects covered by this blog, and may need to edit some of the comments from time to time. Please understand that comments posted to this site do not represent the opinions of the Company.

After reading my tweet, Luis Vieira over at Think Lola sent me an email, which went like this:

I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with moderating comments – sure in an ideal world you wouldn’t and I strongly believe that online
communities once they reach a certain size and critical mass can quite
 effectively police themselves.
When a blog is starting out, especially one as visible as this one, it will attract its fair share of cranks right out of the gate before the more
thoughtful and sober amongst us (the majority) start to make their presence

Leaving the comments unmoderated would likely open them up to unforeseen liabilities and almost act as a challenge to unscrupulous individuals. Just because it’s a big bad brand ie: Coke, Nike, McDonalds it seems
everyone taunts them to get all new-agey web 2.0.

People forget that these
are business that contribute significantly to the economies they touch, they
 employee large swaths of the population, sponsor cultural events, and donate huge amounts of money to what most people would consider good causes. Of
course there’s always the flip side of this – after all slagging the Big Bad Brands has been in vogue since oh…. at least 1998

My take on Coke’s House Rules is very simple: it’s like communism.

When I visited Budapest during the iron curtain days, friends and family told me what “it” was like. “It” meant pretty much everything that centred around the censorship that comes with communism. “You can’t say this… can’t say that. You could to jail if someone heard you.”

What you read in the newspapers or saw on the state run TV (there were 2 channels to choose from) wasn’t necessarily the truth: it’s what they wanted you to hear.

This is still happening in many countries unfortunately.

I lived in Budapest for 3 years after the curtain came down. “It” was still engrained in most of the people I met; the fear of someone over hearing what you really wanted to say. I remember going to underground (literally) pubs where the young aristocrats, many of them in advertising, would gather to speak their minds. At times it was like being in the Factory with Andy Warhol et al, but it was always a place where censorship did not exist. People spoke freely and listened freely. It was totally open. No rules.

Perhaps I’m being too literal here, but for a blog to have House Rules goes against the whole reason of listening and conversing.

It shows that a company/brand is not confident in what they are doing, which leads me to ask “Why did they even bother creating a blog?” To play the part? “Look at me… I’m all web 2.0. Ain’t I great?”

They’re doing it on their terms to benefit themselves. No one else.


9 Responses to “Coca Cola’s House Rules for Blogging”

  1. 1 Ryan Anderson February 6, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I think a company would be stupid not to moderate comments. I’m all for transparency and openness, but the reality is that a company of any size doesn’t need to spend time engaging one-to-one with people who just want to cause trouble. It does nobody any favours.

    That said, a company entering social media who was moderating comments just because they didn’t want to defend their actions or wanted to command and control the conversation should just stay out of it. There’s a big difference.

    In real life, if someone in a conversation starts spouting crap off the top of their heads that’s uneducated and annoying to everyone, I cut them out of the conversation. I see no problem with companies doing the same on their blogs.

  2. 2 jted February 6, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I moderate all my comments for 2 reasons:

    1) Spammers. If I didn’t have to approve the comments, people would post unrelated links to all kinds of garbage. It would make the comment section like wading through raw sewage.

    2) Trolls. There are always idiots who just want to disturb things. They don’t want to be part of the conversation, they just want to f*** things up, be inappropriate, and ruin things for everyone else.

    There’s a fine line, obviously, between posting uncomfortable things you disagree with and censorship. But the visitors will ultimately decide if you are doing a fair job or not. If I go to the Coke conversation and find it all sterile and one-sided with lots of dogma, I’m not going to be interested, and the community will eventually fail (or never even get started).

    Coke (and all corporations) have to decide if their brands are ready or appropriate for a real community of openness and candid conversation.

  3. 3 Joe Szabo February 6, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Ryan, my feeling is that Coke has entered the conversation with command and control, like you suggest, at the top of their agenda rather than joining the conversation. That’s just a feeling though.

    jted, agree with your reasons for moderating; they’re technical in nature and they keep things relevant. The question is: Aside from spam, do you edit any of those comments? Do you delete what you do not want anyone to see? My guess would be no. Why? Because you have decided to join a real community of openness.

  4. 4 Luis Vieira February 6, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Joe Szabo wears women’s underpants….bababooie….bababooie

    So….will you moderate that one….or not?

  5. 5 Joe Szabo February 6, 2008 at 6:23 pm


    Fact: I haven’t worn women’s underpants in years.

  6. 6 Joe Szabo February 6, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    It comes down to the fine line of moderating vs. censoring

    Moderating, as jted points out, has its benefits. And while I was very tempted not to include Luis Vieira’s comment about women’s underpants, I choose to leave it. Why? Because I can back it up with fact. A good brand can always back itself up. If it can’t then, as Ryan points out, why bother?

    Censoring is the same thing. Why bother if you’re not going to be open about it?

  7. 7 Simon February 7, 2008 at 9:04 am

    I guess it depends on whether EVERY comment will get a response from Coke, even if offline from the blog. I totally agree that a big brand like them can’t just open up a free forum for anyone to post anything. It would be like providing a stage for all the BS that gets slung at corporate brands.

    Can’t say I’m a huge fan of moderated blogs, but I appreciate that they have to exist in these situations. I would hope that even if I posted something derogatory about a brand, I would at least receive a response from the brand.

  8. 8 mussweelo February 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    So without hesitation, I rammed my camera blended into her ass.

  9. 9 Joe Szabo February 24, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    I’ll assume that mussweelo’s comment is spam that managed to get through Akismet.

    If we don’t hear from mussweelo that it’s not in fact spam, by leaving another comment here, then the rest of us decent blogging folk can resume back to being contributors who respect one another.

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