On Friday I posted my opinion (fine, my rant) about the reaction to the announcement of the Blog Council. Basically I was arguing that if a group of like-minded people wanted to get together and support each other, even if behind closed doors, I have absolutely no problem with that. Certainly I might end up taking exception with their choices or conclusions derived from such a group, but I’m not cynical enough to believe that an outcome like that is a given.
Somehow our industry has gotten off track. We have forgotten that planning and execution aren’t one in the same. We’ve forgotten that “Word of Mouth” isn’t just for marketing campaigns, it’s also for ideas. We’ve forgotten that blogging (or any other social tech) isn’t an activity, it’s a metaphor.
Certainly, companies are going to continue to screw up. Companies, after all, are made of real, live humans, after all. Stories like the one about Target telling it’s “Rounders” program to promote the chain without letting on that they’re insiders:
The Minneapolis-based discount retailer is being outed in online blogs and discussed in college ethics classes after students allied with the company were told to “keep it like a secret” while singing the company’s praises on the social network site Facebook.com.
Why not have a group of people working together to avoid problems just like this one, either for social good or corporate benefit? (By the way, is there any difference between those two?) Imagine the peer pressure that would have come from a group like The Blog Council if Target was a member. Imagine the helpful counsel that other Blog Council members like Sean (Microsoft) or Lionel (Dell) could have shared, given the ability of the members to share openly with each other due to the private nature of the group.
As an industry, we’re constantly telling clients, brands, agencies, media, and anyone else who will listen that we humans are more inclined to listen to our friends than to marketers. At the same time, we bloggers & social media experts are marketing a “product” too: a new way of thinking and acting between companies and consumers.
Like so many products, isn’t the success of ours highly dependent on the Word of Mouth factor just like any other product/service on the market? Think about the Wikipedia definition of WOM marketing:
Research points to individuals being more inclined to believe WOMM than more formal forms of promotion methods; the receiver of word-of-mouth referrals tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive
I have to believe that if the goal is truly to get companies to change the way they work with their customers, then it’s an absolute imperative to help encourage members of large companies who “get it” to help share it with their colleagues, friends, and industry contacts at other big companies. If we practice what we preach, it’s hard to believe that that type of conversation wouldn’t be far more effective than anything any of us have to say.
And if these conversations need a bit of air cover (in the form of privacy), then I’m all for it. Besides, it’s not the planning (private) that really matters, it’s the execution (public).