I blogged about the introduction of the Blog Council last Wednesday, but since that time, a bit of a firestorm has erupted over it among bloggers. Rather than try to explain, here's some quotes from some of the people that have sounded off about it:
Scoble: "And, actually, if your company needs help “getting it” then you shouldn’t be hanging out with other companies"
Geoff: "Is it a good thing or a bad thing that these discussions are taking place behind closed doors? Are we back to Command and Control? One thing is clear. Transparency is not going to be at a premium."
Shel: "In fact, what I like and respect about this announcement is it's collaborative nature. It feels true to the social media approach and hearing it from such formidable voices gives some vindication to some of us who have sometimes felt we were hollering in a hurricane."
Dave: "My translation: "we're all clueless, but don't want anyone to realize just how unplugged our organizations have become from the world of "marketing 2.0", so we created a club so our ignorance can be shielded from public eyes."
Josh: "Give them time. Hell the group was just announced. Ultimately the members will be able to see if there is any value in the organization. If it's good it will survive, it not it will die a slow death :-)"
Jake: "Getting up in arms because a group of people who are already immersed in social media want to get together in private, comfortable to place to exchange ideas in a non-threatening way just makes all of us look immature and clueless."
I tend to side with bloggers such as Josh and Jake that are saying let's give this thing a chance to fail, before we label it a failure. One thing I have learned from my time in the blogosphere is that bloggers tend to look at anything corporations do in this realm with an extremely critical eye. I still think a lot of it is simply bloggers thinking that they will look like they 'get it' if they say that big dumb clueless corporation doesn't.
But something struck me as the majority of the complaints from bloggers seems to focus on the 'closed' nature of the council. How is this different from Seth not allowing comments on his blog? This is one of the most recognizable bloggers in the world, purposely opting out of the conversation.
Or is he? In fact it seems that Seth is doing the same thing that the council is wanting to do, he's participating on terms that he's comfortable with. Myself and many others have blogged about how we wish that Seth would allow comments on his blog (Google 'SethGate'). But Seth prefers to block comments and address readers instead via email and posts left on other blogs. And to his credit, he does so very quickly.
IOW, Seth participates in a fashion that he is comfortable with. Take away Seth's comfort level, and he might decide to stop blogging altogether. And we all would be much poorer for it. The Blog Council strikes me as an effort by blogging companies to exchange and cultivate ideas in an environment that they are comfortable with. As a blogger, I am quite willing to stand on the outside, if the END RESULT is that this council leads to the growth and improvement of the corporate blogging community.
I'm willing to give them a chance, and I think the potential benefits are such that other bloggers should as well.
Pic via Flickr user Valentinapowers
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing
It going to be interesting to see how it pans out. Remember, the companies who are involved are massive enterprises -- some with already substantial online communities. The mere fact that these companies want to get together shows great spirit. We will have to wait and see whether something more committed comes out of the council.
Gavin I am optimistic since Andy is over it and the Dell guys (has anyone else began to collectively refer to John, Richard and Lionel as 'the Dell guys'?) are involved. That alone is enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt to see where it goes.
Great round-up, Mack. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.
The problem as I see it is not in wanting to create a private space to meet and discuss, but what the whole activity symbolises.
Almost nothing in this announcement gives any credibility to the council, which undermines it from the start.
Pardon a crude analogy, but it's like learning about women from a Blow-Up Wanda: She's safe, easy-to-manipulate and SILENT.
"Almost nothing in this announcement gives any credibility to the council, which undermines it from the start."
David this is where I think the rub comes in. I assume you are saying that the announcement gives little credibility to the council....among bloggers, right? Well bloggers aren't the target market for this council, and aren't the group whose best interests the council wants to serve. I think this is where everyone is getting confused.
I look at this from the point of view of Company ABC that is NOT blogging, but is slightly curious. Company ABC is cautious because they know little about blogging, and as a result they buy into the stereotype that bloggers are nothing but 'a buncha whiney complainers that are just LOOKING for a chance to pounce on a company and slam them'. And sadly, the reaction that the council is getting in the blogosphere somewhat justifies this stereotype.
But with the council, Company ABC now has a group that it can look to for guidance that is facing the same issues and environment that they are. If I were Company ABC, I would much rather look for guidance from companies that are already blogging, such as the council members.
So in the end, I look at the council from the point of view of 'will this group make it more or less likely that their peers will consider blogging?' I think the answer on the surface is that the creation of this council will make it MORE likely that non-blogging companies will be willing to test the blogging waters, because of this council.
So if this group gets more companies blogging and communicating with bloggers, that's a slam-dunk of a win, IMO.
I agree - this is the rub. But ...
It is not an academic exercise; I am advising a global IT network & services provider on how it can use social media to improve customer service and lift sales. The discussion is going pretty much how you would expect.
However, this council's entry in the marketplace is counter-productive. The council is trying to create a community, canvas opinion, offer assistance and make connections between people; it is doing so without any of the tools which social media so effortlessly provides.
You can understand how this is a mixed message at best; at worst, it appears to be corporate skulduggery running amok.
I humbly submit companies still skitterish about engaging with social media have many options and resources at their disposal; I would strongly suggest to these same companies to steer clear of those bodies who cannot produce and publicly demonstrate these same principles in action, be they for-profit consultants or public-service councils.
Your point is taken, and a valid one; this council still smacks of one-step-forward-two-steps-back to me.
David said: "it is doing so without any of the tools which social media so effortlessly provides."
Who says? It's a private group, for a private community... who knows what tools they're using? The use of the word "social" doesn't inherently imply/require fully "public".
A corporate internal blog or intranet with social features is no less social because only company employees can view it.
Mack, fantastic post - couldn't agree more.
I'd also like to add to your (very spot on) point: "I look at this from the point of view of Company ABC that is NOT blogging, but is slightly curious."
Think about the cocktail party metaphor that we social media types use so often. We say that if you arrive at a party and have someone greet you, offer you a drink, and introduce you around, you're far more likely to have a great time than if you show up without any of that.
In Company ABC's case, if they know that there's going to be someone "like them" at the party when they're deciding to go, they're far more likely to get in the cab in the first place.
"Who says? It's a private group, for a private community... who knows what tools they're using? The use of the word "social" doesn't inherently imply/require fully "public"."
I'm not talking about mechanics, I'm discussing strategy. Had they kept the Council private, I would agree with you.
However, they issued a press release bringing it into the public square, using the council as a PR instrument and proxy for real social engagement. We have every reason (and, IMO, a responsibility) to scrutinise and keep them honest.
This is not play time: a significant audience for that press release was analysts, and don't think they didn't read it. Someone is profiting, so no one gets a pass when it comes to delivering the goods.
Have a private council, knock yourself out; but keep it private; otherwise, get in the game.
"Have a private council, knock yourself out; but keep it private; otherwise, get in the game."
So basically you aren't impressed with the effort at launch because that's not the way you (as I assume a NON-corporate blogger) would have done it?
My litmus test for its success will be whether or not corporate blogging is better off as a result of its creation.
Way too early to judge using my litmus test.
I have managed corporate and personal sites but it's beside the point. There's no one right way to blog, nor would I suggest there is.
I would, however, strongly argue the fact that if the council wants credibility and authority, it needs to earn it with demonstrative evidence.
You're right, of course: it is waaay too early to judge its ultimate success. On my scorecard at home, though, it was a calamitous opening gambit.
We'll see where they go from here.
"I would, however, strongly argue the fact that if the council wants credibility and authority, it needs to earn it with demonstrative evidence."
But credibility and authority with who?
Bloggers such as you and I, or its intended audience?
I think this is the very salient point that's being missed here. We aren't the audience for this council. It might as well be sheepherders in Argentina telling them that they are screwing it up.
Now if corporations and corporate bloggers start telling the council that they aren't bringing anything to the table, THEN we have a story. But bloggers saying they are screwing up really isn't a big story to anyone other than bloggers, IMO.
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