Pillow Talk and an Enterprise Social Network

|   Feb 2, 2012

Community managers walk a fine line between content moderation and promoting open communication amongst employees. At some point in time, every community manager is faced with a decision that forces them to choose between employees discussing whatever topic they feel is important and what benefit or detriment this topic has on the rest of the company.

Many cases are clear, such as when messages violate company policy. The delete button is a manager’s biggest friend – one click and the post disappears from view while IT keeps a record just in case.

Other cases of community management require creative thinking and a quick analysis of what cultural impact the moderation will have on users and their perception of the tool.

So, when is it appropriate for a community manager to modify or delete the content of another user when it’s not inappropriate or confidential?

At VMware, we recently experienced this situation. Our community is called VMware Link, and 98% of VMware employees have an account today. We use it just like any other enterprise does – for Q&A, discussing accounts, and sharing crucial information, but it’s also important for all of our global employees to understand the product so that they can accurately discuss it with our customer base. A few weeks ago, several employees shared their frustration that the very first group appearing at the top of the global groups directory was called “I Flip My Pillow to Get to the Cool Side.”

Enterprise pillow talk – now that was a first.

The issue was that an errant space in the group name pushed it to the very top of our alphabetical list. Someone had created this group months ago, just testing the groups feature during a proof of concept phase. However, they never deleted the group, and occasionally someone joined or posted a message there. Most importantly, that group lived at the top of everybody’s group directory, making it the first one visible – all the time.

To those of us experienced in enterprise social networking, we never though too much about it. But what about the salesperson visiting the directory for the first time, or an executive looking to understand how his or her team was using the community? The Pillow group was an obvious exception to the rest of the list of more than 2,000 valuable and important groups inside Link, but it sent the signal that some users were using the community for fun. And, it clashed with the message that we were providing thousands of account managers that their customers’ communities were about working smarter and improving efficiency. Unless they’re working with Serta, pillow talk shouldn’t be the focus of internal discussions.

Our solution? In this case, we were lucky to have a simple fix. Instead of deleting the group and causing controversy over moderating personal and fun, but not harmful conversation, our community manager simply changed the group name to delete the errant space. The group now appears somewhere in alphabetical order, no longer immediately visible to all that visit the groups directory.

To the original creator of the Pillow group, it was a quick and easy way to test a feature. But to many others in the company eager to learn more about enterprise social networks, the Pillow group stood out and made a negative cultural impact on our education process. It’s amazing how impactful one individual contribution, message, group or idea can be inside a community – for the better or for worse.

How have you handled similar situations as a community manager? What’s the toughest call you have had to make inside your community where there’s no clear or correct answer? [Comment or tweet your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you.]


  • There is something called ‘Streisand effect’ in social/digital media which is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely:) As a community manager deleting or censoring a content isn’t the best possible solution but to present it in a more acceptable manner definitely is. Must have are strong community guidelines & playbook. Enforce Security, Safety and ethics through moderation.That is what community management is all about.

    Commented on November 19, 2013 at 11:04 am

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