Wednesday, 18th March 2009
Nancy Davis Kho
I was contacted this week by a consultant in the information industry who wondered if I knew of any tools that would help qualify commenters to a CEO blog. The issue was that his client, the CEO of a publicly traded company, wanted to jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon. But he was nervous about engaging in online discussion with anonymous posters to his blog, and in fact wanted to be sure that the only comments being posted were made by pre-screened, credentialed types, i.e. members of a trade association or LinkedIn.
My first reaction was to tell this consultant that what his CEO wanted was a customer forum, not a blog; if you only want certain people to post, the democracy aspect of blogging has flown the coop, and so has your right to use the term. The second reaction, after putting the question out to my network and doing some of my own searching, is that no such tool or service exists. Why? Because blogging is about two-way conversation, and while I sympathize with the CEO's concerns, he's missing a golden opportunity.
The challenge and the benefit of blogging (and wikis, and social networks) is that it moves control from companies to customers. For companies with traditional marketing and communication departments, that loss of control can be terrifying, as customers and non-customers engage in and indeed lead the discussion. But isn't that ultimately the goal for most companies - to understand what customers are saying and thinking about them? And if you're doing your job and satisfying your customers, what more credible sales message is there than the public lauds of a happy client? It would be an unusual company indeed who didn't also seek to connect with prospective customers just as eagerly as it did existing customers, but that's the model this CEO is limiting himself to.
Let me be clear - I'm not against requiring identification for those posting to a blog. In fact I think it promotes more thoughtful, responsible reactions and reduces (though does not eliminate) the potential for mayhem. And most blogging services and software provide options for comment moderation to enable administrators to remove profane or off-topic comments before they appear. It's a power which should be used in moderation, of course...some companies go so far as to allow the post to appear with the questionable content blanked out, in an effort to be as transparent as possible.
But what the public company CEO in question may not realize is that with the advent of interactive social media, his customers are talking somewhere, whether it's on a vertical industry-focused site or a more general purpose one like LinkedIn. Better to bring that conversation to the corporate blog, where customers can feel that their concerns are heard by the one entity that needs to hear it.
I'm curious to know what the experiences of VIP readers have been in enterprise blogging - what's worked, what hasn't?
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