The difficulty of participation by the corporation

OK, let’s get this out of the way right up front – being a member of a corporation and participating in the Social Web is difficult. There’s so much fear wrapped up in the idea of opening yourself up that it scares far too many off of participating.

In our recent SXSW panel, “Managing Effective Communities”, someone in the audience asked “What’s the biggest community killer”. “That’s easy”, I said. “Fear.”

Perhaps if we highlight the core issues that generate this fear, we can begin to combat it. Jeremiah does a fantastic job highlighting at least three key issues:

The 3 Impossible Conversations for Corporations

#1: Asking for Feedback
It’s so hard for companies to ask for feedback. Take a look around, how many ‘corporate’ blogs ask for raw, unfiltered product feedback. It’s scary for a few reasons: 1) Most companies want to talk about how great they are, not expose themselves to weaknesses. 2) Most companies don’t have the appetite to listen to the feedback, then do anything with it. 3) Most companies don’t know how to respond to the feedback, they don’t want to promise it will happen, nor acknowledge a weakness.

#2: Saying positive things about your competitors
Customers aren’t stupid. In fact, they know who your competition is, and they talk about amongst each other. Yet, for some reason, this is very, very difficult for companies to swallow. There’s some unwritten law that companies shouldn’t talk about their competition (unless you’re criticizing them), it’s welded deeply into nearly every corporate culture. The thing is, customers and prospects talk about your competition, and they will often be analyzing you, and them, and not everything said will be negatives. Companies that recognize that their worthy competition has some strengths have the hardest time admitting it in public –yet those that do, become more relevant, trusted, and authentic than ever before.

#3: Admitting you were wrong
Corporations should always show their happiest face to the market –at least that’s what corporate communications team tells us. Yet in reality, no company, (none, nil, zilch) are perfect. Why pretend to be the absolute best in everything that you do when the rest of the market (including those who are buying and deciding on services) know better. Companies have a hard time admitting they’re wrong, instead, choose to spin, redirect, or ignore what most are saying.