Industry maturity brings different challenges

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My buddy Andy has launched a new project this week called the Blog Council. From the announcement press release:

The Blog Council, a professional community of top global brands dedicated to promoting best practices in corporate blogging, officially launched today. […] The Blog Council exists as a forum for executives to meet one another in a private, vendor-free environment and share tactics, offer advice based on past experience, and develop standards-based best practices as a model for other corporate blogs.

Let’s recap: A community of professionals with similar challenges has formed in order to help support each other through new, sometimes troubling waters. They’ve chosen to do so behind closed doors. Then the blogosphere goes batshit, telling them they’re clueless and “just don’t get it”.

Uh… is it just me or does that reaction back up the need for a private group? Reminds me of the “Jackass Guy” from Happy Gilmore

The thing that irritates me the most (besides the lack of understanding about what people are bashing) is that the high level of zealotry being shown. The “experts” are basically saying it’s their way or the highway, either you make public everything or you do nothing. There are plenty of instances where crucial conversations happens behind closed doors, and for good reason.

I’ve personally been part of a number of product innovation projects that brought customers into the company (Mindstorms NXT, in particular) under strong Non-Disclosure Agreements. I’ve had a number of social media/community “experts” tell me that these projects could/should have been totally out in the open, having no idea what the internal, market, legal, or business implications of that would have been. They were absolutely convinced that the same impact could have happened if everything was public, and they were dead wrong.

As bloggers/social media advocates, it’s not our right or our responsibility to “require” that companies open every conversation, every decision, every business process to our review. The more we demand they do so, the more we come across as the Jackass Guy in Happy Gilmore.

Promoting a culture of openness and transparency is fantastic – I do it daily. But the zealotry shown from the blogosphere about the private nature of the Blog Council does nothing more than distort our message. It proves to companies that participation with customers is scary, that they need to be careful, that they need to watch their backs. When social media was first being introduced into organizations, strong personalities like Robert Scoble were driving that charge. But now that we’ve reached (passed?) a tipping point where the non-bulldog personalities are getting involved, our tactics have to change. For those professionals getting involved with bringing social media to their organizations, we need to welcome not insult. We need to hug, not kick in the ass. We need to let them start in a comfortable place and help them (quickly) move out of their comfort zone.

The biggest challenge to changing corporate culture is eliminating this response from clients/colleagues:

“Oh, well you just aren’t understanding the business issues at play here.”

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.

Dave, Scoble, TechCrunch, Des, Geoff, Shel, Kami, Mack, David, and Josh also weigh in on the issue.