For review, or to learn how Graeme Thickens ended up "volunteering" to help examine the evolution of business blogging since he wrote his (then) skeptic's view in April 2005:
- Blogs vs. Social Media: Businesses Need Both (intro)
- Part 1 - A Passion for Your Business
- Part 2 - Gossip, Trust, and ROi
Next, Graeme-Apr05 wrote:
3. Business doesn't like doing public experiments. Again, this seems to be one of the favorite recent themes of the hypesters: that businesses should start blathering with their "corporate voice." But mainstream business doesn't let just one person speak for all its interests. And that applies even to the CEO — or, I should say, especially to the CEO in the current climate of ethics lapses and Sarbanes-Oxley.
Don't you just want to shout, THE EXPERIMENT IS OVER?
But no, that would miss Graeme's point ... and the much more important response that public "experimentation" is one of the high-value benefits that businesses are experiencing with blogging and social media. I take Graeme to have meant that traditional-minded businesses prefer learning what their customers want from spreadsheets, carefully chosen focus groups, and scientifically randomized studies. Since then, however, we've seen many examples of corporate blogs being used to ... gasp! ... ask the customers themselves for feedback.
Back in 2006, Southwest Airlines' Gary Kelly wrote his first blog post and declared "open season on assigned seating." A followup post, more than 700 often impassioned comments, and two field tests later, Southwest adopted a new boarding procedure and had customers who knew they were part of the decision. You can find many other examples collected by Shel Holtz and John Havens in Tactical Transparency, or by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in Groundswell, where they describe these public experiments as a for of "crowdsourcing."
Earlier this year, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester asked his blog readers for help in defining the attributes for him to study on the topic of what makes a successful social media marketing campaign. A couple of days and dozens of comments later, he refined his list with credits to those whose contributions he used and wrote, "Wow this whole social media/crowd sourcing thing actually works!"
And there's a very timely example going on right now over at Scott Monty's Social Media Marketing Blog, where he's posted a lengthy piece helping to explain How You Can Use Social Media to Help the U.S. Auto Industry. Scott works at Ford and provides information on how Ford and it's workers have been moving toward solutions in recent years, before the current economic situation arose. Once again, he's received dozens of responses, from loyal Ford customers and critics alike, and he's kept the discussion in a calm and constructive tone. Go share your ideas and we'll see if others at Ford are paying attention.
How could your business benefit from a public experiment?