A recent article in Smartcompany magazine titled Web 2.0: The risk, the reward, discussed the opportunities and risks of Web 2.0, focusing on the lack of control in marketing in the new online world. It quotes extensively from lawyers on some of the legal realities of dealing with negative commentary online, and then goes on to quote from me:
If you also prefer to avoid lawyers altogether, another option is to hop into the online debate yourself. Internet strategy consultant Ross Dawson says web 2.0 is really about participation – and any company that ignores this does so at their peril.
“It cuts both ways,” says Dawson, noting that companies can’t choose to be invisible online. Web 2.0 is not about companies deciding to be rated; consumers comment on whatever they like.
“It’s important to understand that web 2.0 is not just about technology. It relates to social trends, including the trend towards self-expression,” Dawson says. “We’re living in a world where people can express their opinions far more freely.”
At a minimum, Dawson sees web 2.0 as a great opportunity for companies to monitor – for free – what consumers think about them and their products, competitors and industry.
“This is an extraordinary tool that any business should tap,” says Dawson, describing web 2.0 sites as a “treasure trove” of customer feedback. “Corporate Australia has been a massive laggard – two or three years behind many countries – in terms of takeup of web 2.0.”
His advice, if people say bad things about your company online, is to avoid lawyers and old-fashioned press releases. “If you want to respond effectively you have to be part of the same conversation. This diffuses the negativity and creates a balance in the conversation.”
Dipping a toe into web 2.0
1. Listen to and learn from online conversations about your product, company, industry and competitors.
2. If you choose to participate, speak honestly and transparently. Move beyond press releases and give your company a human voice. Options include your own blog, posting comments on other blogs, being active at Yahoo Answers and sharing videos on YouTube. [Note: these options were added by the journalist]
3. Provide compelling content in accessible formats. One success story in Australia is podcasts by small wine producers, interviewing experts about their wine.
4. Go to the sites where your lead consumers are going. If you want to know what your customers are going to be doing, you have to engage in it yourself.
Source: Ross Dawson, chairman of Future Exploration Network
Much of this seems to be self-evident to me, but clearly a minority of companies are yet engaging effectively in online conversations. However the shift has begun and these approaches and attitudes are on the way to becoming mainstream.