Why disabling comments is bad news for celebrities and influencers

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Researchers find that allowing negative social media comments has more benefit for public figures than turning them off.

Researchers from two US universities – Alabama and Vanderbilt – have published a study in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing examining the negative consequences that celebrities and influences incur when they disable social media comments.

Photo by Cottonbro Studio from Pexels

The study is titled ‘No Comments (From You): Understanding the Interpersonal and Professional Consequences of Disabling Social Media Comments’ and is authored by academics Michelle Daniels and Freeman Wu.


Various celebrities and influencers, including Oprah Winfrey, have occasionally disabled access to their social media comments in response to negative sentiment. Is this misguided?

The answer is ‘yes’, according to the new research. The study finds that influencers who disable social media comments are less persuasive and less likable than those who do not, even when the displayed comments are mostly negative.


As Daniels explains: “We discovered that when influencers disable comments, they are perceived as less receptive to consumer feedback, or what we term ‘consumer voice.’


Judged as being less sincere


“Consequently, they are judged as less sincere and ultimately incur both interpersonal and professional consequences. In other words, disabling comments can undermine a key influencer asset, their perceived receptiveness to consumer voice and their ability to connect and engage with their followers.”


Indeed, the research found that turning off comments is more costly for an influencer’s reputation than leaving them on, even when the displayed comments are mostly negative in nature.


This effect occurs because influencers who leave their comments enabled appear to be interested in hearing from the public and learning from their actions while those who turn them off signal their dismissiveness of others’ opinions.


Under certain situations, consumers understand an influencer’s decision to disable comments. If, for example, an influencer is perceived as taking reasonable measures to protect themselves during times of emotional turmoil and distress (e.g., grief and mental health struggles), the backlash against disabling comments is weakened.


“However, it is critical to note that it is consumers, rather than the influencers, who decide what are considered reasonable forms of self-protection,” emphasises Wu.


So, while consumers might empathise with an influencer’s decision to disable comments if their beloved pet had recently died, they may be less empathetic to influencers who disable comments to avoid negative feedback after apologising for a transgression.


You can find out more about the study here.

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.