Companies and social networking

The discussion seems to come up at different companies whether they should blog, use Twitter, build a Facebook app and so on. I thought I’d express my views on it.

Generally, I don’t think it’s a good thing. Why? Simple – because it’s very seldom genuine. All these companies see the popularity of different ways of social networking and immediately start thinking:

How can we make money out of this?

Well, to begin with, perhaps not everything is primarily about making money. If you have nothing to say, and no burning ambition to share certain things in your company’s name, just don’t. Really.

Just like Paul Boag mentions in #5 in his great article You Are Wasting Money On Social Networking, it’s really good that companies acknowledge social networking, but that doesn’t mean it has to be done in the name of your company.

Credibility

Overall, I think it also comes down to authenticity. With a corporate blog, almost all of them are restricted from completely free speech by their managers, CEOs and corporate lawyers. Every step, every word has to be carefully considered, usually resulting in some bland and lukewarm postings.

Take a fantastic person like Molly. Her writings are so truly genuine and personal, and, most important of all, true and honest! By acting that way, she might’ve crossed some lines for some, but at the same time it convinces you that she won’t fake or hide her opinions, but instead becomes completely trustworthy person and human being.

Look at the wonderful Freedom, Justice and a Disturbingly Gaping Ass ! It is a thoroughly entertaining piece, but also a great example of a number of different Internet social phenomenon that anyone should study. Would you see that in a company blog? I think not.

Individuals, not companies

Don’t get me wrong, I love when people want to share through blogs, Twitter etc, I just have a hard time with it being forced and pushed out. If it’s not fueled by a 100% interest and the need to do it, the result will never become good.

Therefore, all people who personally want to use any sort of social networking to build your personal brand, discuss your expertise or just briefly mention that you’re currently taking a shit, go crazy!

But if you plan on doing it on a company’s behalf, very few get past the point of soulless and non-personal. So really, consider if that’s truly what you want.

What’s your view on corporate social networking?

5 Comments

  • mdmadph says:

    I, like you, despise corporate blogs (unless they're purely information, and don't try to be personal), but I realize they're never going away. 😛 They're the "next big thing," and that always equals money in the eyes of management!

  • Steven Clark says:

    Its frustrating when you try to educate / guide companies in this direction because their fear of loss of control is huge. Usually, for small business anyway, meaning they don't post at all – or if they do it's a bland staccato of company jargon and thinly veiled advertising. Very few of which would ever be interesting.

    However, given a restaurant for example… coffee clubs, fine wine, good food – how could you lose? There are so many niches that the restaurant trade touches on that making that personal link to customers (particularly when they complain) and allowing them to talk to each other and meet would bring great benefits.

    What they really need to do is appreciate social networking as a beast worthy of investing in correctly, just like they need specialists to build a website or to do their accounting. They need someone to sit down – and they need to trust them – to discuss the economic benefit in their own business terms of letting social networking into their solution.

    Unfortunately the restaurant I worked with wasn't willing to relax those reins, which IMO has lost them many thousands of dollars. It's about relationship marketing instead of seeing yourself as someone who sells a product for a fee.

    If a company is just going to put a blog up and use it for advertising there's not a lot of point really. I recall Zeldman once said every business needs a blog, but that should have been "every business needs an effective blog".

    Let's not forget it's the most cost effective marketing tool out there, particularly for small to medium business. It just needs to be done correctly – do they do all their own untrained marketing campaigns?

    Personal, authentic, timely, and relevant information. The other tip is they should consider just posting things "their users" will find interesting… about coffee, about wine, about fine food etc.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for commenting!

    mdmadph,

    Yes, for some reason everything is money in some people's eyes…

    Steven,

    It's an interesting example, with a restaurant. Perhaps a blog could work there, in terms of "What should be today's special" and have comments as a feeback.

    Generally, though, perhaps the possible topics would be better of in a forum, hosted by the restaurant, rather than a blog, or tweet?

  • […] Nyman’s post about companies and social networking discusses the inauthenticity of nearly every corporate and business blog out there. So many have […]

  • Jace says:

    I liked your site,Aaralyn

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