After a long wait, Twitter has just implemented a new feature requested by many: the ability to hide replies to Tweets. While it may seem like a game-changing tool, perfect for banishing trolls and steering the conversation, the truth is a bit more complicated. Read on for our thoughts on when it might make sense for your brand to hide replies, and why it might be better, in Twitter parlance, to take a step back and “get dunked on” when things aren’t going as planned.

The Good

For years, Twitter has been an open (very open) conversation. And while it’s fostered a unique online culture with its free-for-all approach, it hasn’t always meshed with best practices for brands. Twitter took a small step in changing the rules when it began automatically hiding some offensive comments in 2017, but this filter caught only the most profane messages (and not especially well at that).

Now that users can hide replies (a feature taken for granted on other platforms, with hiding and deleting comments available on Facebook and deleting comments on Instagram), we have something new in what still remains a limited toolbox for keeping conversations on track.

When working with our clients, we deal with off-topic spammers and coattail-riders trying to promote their own ventures in the replies from time to time (well, let’s be honest, all of the time), and worry about situations when malefactors might post inappropriate material or personal information. These less-than-model posters are the perfect candidates for reply-hiding.

BUT, before we go mad with power, let’s take a moment to consider the potential downsides of brands hiding replies on Twitter-dot-com.

The Bad

Unlike the frictionless hiding and deleting available on Facebook and Instagram, Twitter has decided to make the process…a thing. Click to hide a reply, and other users will be met with the message “some replies were hidden by the Tweet author,” announcing to the world that you have broken an unspoken norm of the platform. What’s more, with the press of a button, users will still be able to see the replies you’ve chosen to hide. This is an issue for two important reasons:

  1. Getting more attention when you want less. When scrolling through replies, people are likely to quickly pass by most off-topic or unpleasant comments. For better or worse, bad replies are almost a fact of life on Twitter. Counterintuitively, reply-hiding has the potential to actually draw more attention to bad posts than they would receive under normal conditions. By announcing that you are hiding replies and then giving people the option to see what is hidden, you are inviting them to linger on what you consider most unacceptable, and maybe even giving them ideas for more bad behavior.
  1. Losing trust. If you are quick to hide replies, you run the risk of building negative sentiment. When the whole community knows that you hide replies, you might be seen as betraying the spirit of the platform. Whatever message you were hoping to share, activating reply-hiding might say something very different: that you are prickly and uninterested in dialogue and feedback from the community. If your social media strategy relies on Twitter to solicit stories, solve problems, and hear concerns, reply-hiding has the potential to dampen enthusiasm and delegitimize your presence on the platform.

Final Thoughts

Our advice? Use this feature sparingly, and know that no matter how justified it seems, your audience might hold it against you. The old-fashioned block and report are more worthwhile for day-to-day community management and won’t draw the ire of the Twitterverse. Use them instead when it makes sense.

And as always, our best recommendation is this: Don’t post things that will generate negative reactions in the first place! It may seem obvious, but you can avoid many headaches and crises by crafting content carefully, giving it the review it deserves, and always, always staying mindful of wider contexts and sensitivities.

If you’d like to learn more about using social media to build trust with your brand and create messages that earn positive attention, get in touch with us.

Written by Andrew Bitto