The lessons for community moderators from how Optus’ Dan responded to racist comments

Optus’ Facebook community manager ‘Dan’ has garnered national headlines for politely schooling racists angry about the telco’s multilingual signage with the incident proving the importance for brands to respond to negative comments on social media.

Optus was inundated with a barrage of complaints on its Facebook page in response the telco’s Arabic signage in Casula Mall – which were pulled by Optus after threats were made to staff – to which its social media team member ‘Dan’ responded to with class, respect and, most importantly by not giving an inch to the angry commenters.Dan Optus
Julie Delaforce, general manager of Quiip, a company that offers 24/7 community manager and moderation, told Mumbrella the Optus case proves the importance for big brands to reply to interactions from customers on social media.



“For some comments a simple Like does the job; it says ‘thanks for engaging with us’. In a situation where there are customer complaints, it needs to be addressed,” she said.

“Especially for those in regulated and customer service industries. Both apply to Optus.”

Delaforce said it is up the individual brands to “decide what works best for them” when it comes to the type of response it will issue.

She said the “bigger lesson” out of this is for brand decision makers.

“Negative commenters shouldn’t be pandered to. If there’s a genuine customer service issue, that’s one thing. However if it’s something against a brand’s values the response should reinforce brand positioning,” Delaforce said.

“It’s okay to allow community managers the space to show a bit of personality within some set guidelines.

“It’s obvious from the response to the Optus engagement that the wider audience, often related to lurking, are incredibly supportive of this type of reaction and it can, as it has for Optus, drive advocacy and positive sentiment.

“In short, my rule of thumb is: if it’s something you encourage in a store-front or on the phone then it should be reflected in social media conversations, too. Ensure community managers have the guidance and training to be strong online communicators who reflect the brand.”

Dan Optus 2

For Delaforce, for brands faced with these types of situations the “biggest risk” lies in replying the wrong way.

“The biggest risk of replying the wrong way is alienating your entire audience,” she said.

“Good community managers have an excellent understanding of their audiences and what will or won’t work. They take calculated risks or test and learn on a smaller scale.”

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Delaforce did admit that “sometimes not replying is the best solution”.

“And sometimes it can go wrong. Again, it’s about having an experienced community manager who assess genuine complaints that will impact the brand versus trolls or those whose comments won’t carry any weight with the rest of the community.”

But for Delaforce this case proves the importance for brands to have a social media presence.

“It’s not negotiable,” she said.

“In a regulated industry like telecommunications there are guidelines around reasonable response to customer complaints. It’s where consumers expect to receive service now, it’s not simply a ‘nice-to-have’. There’s also a lot of research showing that social media and online community customer service saves per-call costs. I can’t see any reason why any organisation would say no to that!”

And on the question if Dan is a real person or the work of an entire team, Delaforce says he is absolutely a real person.

“He has a Reddit fan that collated all of his comments making them easy to share. If you look at the conversations from back in November you can see a number of Optus team members responding. I can only assume it was planned messaging from a risk and corporate communications perspective which was then incredibly well-executed by the team.

“What we’re seeing at work here is an example of the ‘social business’. Optus have built a strong company culture, threading a commitment to community through the entire organisation, allowing their front-line social media team to respond showing their own personalities as well as the brand’s.

“The reason Dan is posting so prolifically now is that questions, compliments and comments are being addressed directly to him.”

Miranda Ward


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