It's coming sometime and maybe
I give a wrong time stop a traffic line
Your future dream is a shopping scheme
- "Anarchy in the UK" - The Sex Pistols
The afternoon session of the Enterprise Software Summit yesterday was a good old fashioned food fight. It became apparent that the room had split into two factions, the first being the "Anarchists" and the other group I'll just call the "Status Quo'ians". JB Holsten and Ross Mayfield were up giving a primer on RSS, blogs, wikis, and the broad cultural ramifications being foist upon companies in the market today and all hell broke loose... and I'm quite sure I had nothing to do with it :)
I think that the ongoing series of discussions throughout the day were leading up to this confrontation, although in hindsight I would point out that the guy who inspired the Anarchy title of this post wasn't even there in the morning session so I maybe that had nothing to do with it... and I'm not hesitant about pointing out the fact that he wasn't there in the morning because I'm 99% sure that guy isn't reading any blogs.
The key issue pivoted around a legitimate question thrown out at one point, which is whether or not all this free flowing and unstructured "conversation" by employees, partners, customers, or whoever potentially diminishing to brands. The premise of the question is rooted in the notion that companies actually control the conversation about their products/services/brand in the marketplace, something I reject. What this question also does not acknowledge is that the best spokespeople for your brand are in fact your employees, partners, and customers, and not the "marketing spokesperson" or the CEO. Read The Me2 Revolution.
After much debate we get to the substance of the dispute, which is "what if one of your employees says something bad about the company?" The only answer I would give to that is "well, is it true?" in which case you have a bigger issue to deal with, but even if something bad is true are you assuming that it won't come out anyways? Of course you can't respond with an answer to a negative but there is ample historical evidence that supports the notion that companies are unable to contain anything negative about themselves.
More points were made about disclosure of information that is deemed sensitive or in violation of government regulations. Rules already exist in companies that cover this, you certainly don't need to create 'blogger versions' of quiet period rules or confidentiality clauses in employment agreements. This is a non-issue.
It's absolutely myopic for any marketing professional to look at what is happening in social media and not come to the conclusion that the strategy and tactics by which they engage the marketplace are not going to evolve as a result. This is not to say that everything gets thrown out the window and we invent new rules, not at all because what I am saying is that smart companies are adding this componentry to their toolbox in addition to everything else they are already doing. Want to ignore it, fine but be sure to dust off your resume.
I am an anarchist
Don't know what I want
But I know how to get it