Why the Blogosphere Matters to Business

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In the past week, I’ve been struck by two very strong examples of how the blogosphere is reshaping business communications drastically.
In the first case, a previous silence was broken and so was the strength of the story that led as an example of a company who ignored the blogosphere at its own peril.
The second case demonstrates a company who is either unaware of the power of the voices within the blogosphere, or who knows the power and believes that threats can silence it nonetheless.
Case #1: Kryptonite – A Positive Example
Nearly a year ago, Engadget, a popular gadget blog revealed that “Kryptonite locks could be easily picked with a ballpoint pen”:http://www.engadget.com/entry/7796925370303347/. Although the company issued official press releases on the subject and offered to replace the tubular locks in question without cost to owners, their lack of interaction with the blogosphere made it appear as if Kryptonite didn’t respond at all. The result was that the Kryptonite story has been used as the ‘warning’ for companies not recognizing the importance of the blogosphere since that time. This is not likely the story Kryptonite wants to tell.


Recently, Shel Israel and Robert Scoble took on writing a book about corporate blogging – online at “Naked Conversations”:http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/. One of their chapters, entitled, “Doing it Wrong”:http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2005/07/chapter_10doing.html, cited the Kryptonite case as one of the many in which companies could have used their own blog or responded to the blogosphere in order to avert crisis. A year later, Kryptonite has learnt a lesson and their PR representative, Donna Tocci, “responded to this post”:http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2005/07/kryptonite_argu.html with a full explanation of how Kryptonite handled the situation.
Although a good move on Kryptonite’s part, many of the comments and trackbacks reflected that her responses were too ‘PR’ and too late. However, instead of backing off and dismissing the various bloggers’ responses to her letter, Donna spent the rest of the week getting involved in the conversation as well as visiting individual blogs, engaging in a dialogue with each blogger. The result? Although not everyone is convinced, the response to her efforts were rewarded by a much more positive feedback in the post-discussion “Kryptonite poll”:http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2005/07/a_kryptonite_po.html .
I’ve also noted Donna’s participation on other blog posts unrelated to Kryptonite since. Although Kryptonite still doesn’t think anyone would want to read a blog about ‘locks and stuff’, they do value interaction with the blogosphere.
Case #2: Quick Boys Movers – A Negative Example
More locally, a popular Toronto blogger (and Tucows employee), “The Accordion Guy”:http://accordionguy.blogware.com/blog/, was in the midst of moving a couple of months ago, so he asked his many readers for “references on potential moving companies”:http://accordionguy.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/6/27/977715.html. One of the comments mentioned two moving companies to avoid, one of which is Quick Boys Moving Company (the comment has been since removed, but reposted in the follow-up).
A month later, Joey (aka The Accordion Guy) received a phone call from Quick Boys, threatening to take legal action if the comment wasn’t removed from the site. After initially reacting to the post by removing the comment, Joey decided to tell “the story online in a follow-up post”:http://accordionguy.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2005/7/29/1086759.html. The problem that Quick Boys had with the original post would be nominal compared with the reaction to the second. Not only did this post create a buzz of comments, but also received the attention of two very popular blogs – “Boing Boing”:http://www.boingboing.net/2005/07/29/torontos_quick_boy_m.html and “Adrants”:http://www.adrants.com/2005/07/one-again-please-the-consumer-dont.php .
If Quick Boys Movers were upset that The Accordion Guy’s comment section became #2 on a Google search for “Quick Boys Movers”:http://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=Quick+Boys+Movers&meta=, they must be very upset that their own website appears at number nine, now below Accordion Guy. _(Ranks as of this writing)_
Dealing with the blogosphere can be a little like the game of telephone in the way that online mythologies, like the Kryptonite story, get distorted through the variety of storytellers. Bloggers often take on the cause of consumer advocacy even when its not their own. But bloggers can become your biggest allies. Instead of reacting to a negative comment on a website, why not interact with the blogger or the commenter?
As the blogosphere grows, I can only imagine that the power of the voices within it will, too. Will your company (or its employees) be among those voices?

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