Marketers might be doing brands a disservice if they weed out negative comments, according to one study.

Brand executives might be nervous about negative reviews on┬ásocial networks and online forums, but a new study shows this can actually help companies┬áreach their content marketing goals. AOL’s Consumer Analytics and Research team analyzed the characteristics of user-generated comments that spark engagement. Criticism of the original news content was found to spark further conversation about the collateral in question.

This finding might alleviate marketers’ fears that sharing branded content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other networks will open their brands up to undue rants that damage their reputations. On the other hand, commenters who overtly praised the articles did not elicit impressive engagement, while responses containing poor grammar also lessened people’s willingness to read on.

Brafton recently presented data that seems to suggest the opposite is true. A study from The American Association for the Advancement of Science implied social media users were more likely to respond positively to web content if the first few influencers Liked it.

The discrepancy poses the question – Are Likes and favorites the most valuable type of engagement, or are brands looking to capture readers’ attention and pull prospects into conversations? AOL’s team asserts it depends on every business and its unique audience. Therefore, marketers must prioritize social listening to measure the results of any new effort.

Analytics reports show creative teams whether their content generates new followers, higher website traffic, new leads or even on-site conversions when it gets a high volume of Likes, or when it receives a few critiques. Marketers can then use content ROI to shape their future posts, share controversial articles that will rile outspoken followers or encourage brand advocates to provide the first few Likes to build momentum.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.