Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why I think the Blog Council is a Good Idea

Let me begin by saying that I am entirely supportive of:

1) Big companies engaging in the blogosphere

2) Big companies recognizing that they have distinct challenges in engaging authentically and transparently in the blogosphere, which is to say in a useful and effective manner


3) Big companies talking to each other about these challenges

therefore, I can only be wholly supportive of an initiative like the one described in this press release announcing the creation of the "Blog Council," a group organized to facilitate having big companies who are already blogging, and have significant blogs, to talk about their challenges in doing so.

One thing I am NOT supportive of, is big companies seeing blogs (and conversational media more generally) as a new "channel" to do "marketing." I don't believe that the blog council intends to promote that idea, but I do think it is at the heart of the healthy ongoing debate in the blogosphere about the creation of the Blog Council.

Forget "blogging" for a moment. What is happening in the world right now, with the Internet as its midwife, is the re-emergence of core human behaviors in markets, transposed into a time and space independent global world.

Unfolded one more level:

Transactions in markets have historically (pre-industrial age) been driven by trust, which is established through reputation, social networks, and word of mouth. The industrial age alienated us as "consumers" from this core sociology of markets. For the past 150 years we have increasingly been asked to establish "trust" on the basis of mass media (public relations) and advertising.

But the past 30 years have undone the previous 100 -- first the evolution of the PERSONAL computer, then the expansion of the Internet, along comes accessibility via the Web, and then the mainstream adoption of online communities -- all leading to the re-emergence of our very human desire to establish trust from peers, not from the media or advertising.

And so what is a marketer to do when the very definition of marketing is being turned on its head? One possible route, and the one that is so vociferously being opposed, is to try and use the new medium like the old -- use blogs to market TO people.

Using a press release to communicate, talking about "tactics," operating behind closed doors, creating private groups that lack transparency in their operations and membership -- these are all the hallmarks of the old, and not the new. These do not establish authentic peer trust in markets.

I believe that this is why so many have been so critical of the start that the Blog Council has made for itself in the world. But it is not too late, it is never too late. The Blog Council can become more transparent, be more about conversations with markets, be more about the core set of reasons that it seems to have been created to serve -- big companies figuring out how to engage in this new medium. A starting point would be to engage with the critics and have a conversation.

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