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Our Thinking

Gutless and Spineless …

Spineless and Gutless

…and afraid of the marketplace of ideas.  These are not exactly the attributes that most organizations (or people) aspire to. Yet most have a Social Media strategy that conveys precisely that.  Here’s the case:

Many organizations now have Facebook “Fan” pages.  Some of them have invested significantly in nifty functionality that runs contests, quizzes, and all manner of interactive bits and pieces. Others are more focused on providing some basic information about their product or service, a few pictures, and maybe a video.  In both cases, however, there is always a “wall”, where they post blog excerpts, new status messages, and other fascinating tidbits.  The question is whether the company has opened up the Facebook wall for user comments or not.

Keep it closed: The argument is that user feedback may turn out to be nasty (or perhaps out of brand), or that competitors will abuse the space, or that they don’t have adequate resources to monitor and respond to any questions.  Think about these arguments: they are ridiculous:  why wouldn’t an organization make listening to prospective and existing customers a top priority?  And if  comments are negative, doesn’t a direct and public response mitigate the PR risk significantly?  Companies that rationalize against openness are gutless, spineless, and afraid of the marketplace of ideas.

Open ‘er up: The argument is that since the conversation will happen somewhere on the social net anyway, why not host it, and respond to any issues that come up directly.  And why not use this channel of engagement to actually engage?  By listening instead of shouting, by floating ideas, and by asking for users’ help, the organization empowers these influencers to spread the good word, not the bad.  This can only happen when there is trust; and trust starts with the conversation.

Of course, there are some organizations that don’t open their walls for good reasons.  But a good reason several years ago is far less of a good reason today.  Then there are others who open their walls but don’t allocate resources to monitor and participate.  This group forgets that the age of experimentation is long over, and that leaving their brand to chance is a huge – and expensive – risk.  It’s cheaper to allocate the proper resources in the first place.

This week’s action plan: Most people are members of groups beyond their employers:  trade associations, charitable groups, etc.  This week, check out the Facebook profiles of all of these groups: are any of them gutless? If so, make the case for listening – it’s surprising what you’ll learn.

This post has been written by 108’s Senior Advisor and former CEO Randall Craig.