If you thought witches and ghouls were the scariest thing you were going to encounter this Halloween, some established companies might see it a little bit differently. For them, the most terrifying prospect is…a social networking site.
But why would anyone be afraid of a little site like Digg or Facebook? The simple answer is control. Companies fear social networking sites because they can’t pick and choose what is said about the company through these kinds of outlets. But this hesitation to move viral (and relinquish this control) shouldn’t be too shocking. Think of all the time, money, and effort that are put into carefully creating any and all company marketing campaigns. Commercials are screened by test audiences before they ever make it on the air. Heads of the company have careful speech writers and PR pros coordinating all company information before it’s divulged to the public. And with social networking sites, companies move out of this controlled environment into the wild, untamed world of everyday human interaction.
But this fear is irrational at best. Social networking sites are here to stay, whether corporations want to acknowledge that or not. If someone wants to spread negative comments about a company, that person is going to make those comments. With the advent of social networking sites, the control of corporations has already been taken away from them.
With that in mind, companies shouldn’t fight something they can’t eliminate. Rather, they should learn to use these kinds of online venues to their advantage. Knowing that word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to spread information about your company, join the revolution. Become part of the discussion. If you’re a corporation, respond to negative comments. Explain your side, and you might just sway a dissatisfied customer. Plus you’ll be putting a face to a faceless company, which is always a good thing.
And who knows, perhaps social networking sites have even made an inadvertent effect on business practices. Unethical behavior can’t be spun and controlled in the way it once was. Now, the information can be disseminated through blogs and social networks without first going through the filter of a corporate head.
Some networking sites have even taken this cue and made corporate responsibility and ethical behavior their focal point. Just check out www.Actics.com. It’s not the most established or professional site, but it does allow businesses to register and list the values they uphold (responsibility, credibility, privacy, environmentalism, etc.) They are then ranked by the online community, so users know who actually acts with the environment in mind or the privacy of their customers.
So if companies want to stay afloat in an age of technological advancement, they need to put their misplaced fears aside and become part of the networking revolution.