Monday, November 12, 2007

The Value of Digital Citizenship

I am a firm believer in the existence of a Digital Community. I think that both people and companies who make their living on the internet owe something to the great beast that has spawned so much in the past ten or fifteen years.
Some of the things I do, of which this blog is the main thing, is contribute small amounts of content to the overall beast, in the hope that it will one day prove useful to somebody browsing on the internet. The vast majority of people on the internet are using it for benevolent purposes and I believe you have to trust in the good intent of that majority.
I saw an interesting idea today. If a website has been setup to defame your brand (example), it is possible to find ways to make that website disappear from Google.
The company who came up with the idea were strongly advising against this rather extreme tactic, but it got me thinking.
The problem is that most brands and brand managers want to control their brand on the internet. That doesn't work anymore. You make a brand and then release it to the public through advertising. Now it used to be that the only feedback people got about your brand was from their friends, the media and your adverts. Now there are many regularly visited places that can give people independent views of brands and companies.
This has spawned whole movements above and beyond those that used to plague nestle - the amount of effort to setup the movements has decreased hugely so the number of movements has increased. Mild hate campaigns can be setup with ease and spread quickly across a whole host of forums and social networks on the web.
In the face of this, many executives will ban any use of their brand, company or even logo in anything that could conceivably end up out of their direct control. This is silly. If you want people to actually take some time to build a relationship with your brand, you need to show them that you trust them. You need to give them the opportunity to complain. You need to be happy to show people that you are an open company.
Obviously you need to address the moaning, but that's the point. Letting the moaning happen is not a choice. Stopping the moaning is very difficult. Putting your prices up will never be a decision welcomed by your customers, but it's sometimes necessary. Explaining why the prices have gone up will help your cause. Explaining why powdered breast milk can sometimes be useful for parents will help.
Letting people make their own minds up is something that brave brands do because brave brands are confident that they have the best product. Trying to control the conversation is something that brands do when they have something to fear. If you have a problem ask for ideas from your customers. Show them that you listen.
Bit rambling. I think I've made my point, but I don't know what it was.

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