The need has never been stronger for companies to embrace the horizontal nature of today's communications. Richard Edelman, in his post The Me2 Revolution, writes "The employee is the new credible source for information about a company, giving insight from the front lines. The consumer has become a co-creator, demanding transparency on decisions from sourcing to new-product positioning."
The emergence of social networks has empowered peer-to-peer exchanges in an unprecedented way and developed power that shows no signs of waning any time soon. Rick's post quotes the Edelman Trust Barometer which shows that peer trust has increased to 68% today, compared to 22% in 2003. That's a huge shift and not one to take lightly.
He relates a number of instances that have created a void in trust in corporations and government and says, "Beyond the lack of confidence in the traditional sources of information lies a more fundamental change, a yearning to move beyond the simple act of consumption of information to social networking."
Then he defines what Me2 is all about: It is the wisdom of the crowd, with constant updating of content based on personal experience.
Which brings me back to what I think is key, and that's interaction. More so than ever before, companies need to stop trying to control everything and work on building relationships, building participatory experiences and listening to what their employees and customers are saying.
The tools are available. Not joining this party will end up costing you. Need I repeat that 68% of people surveyed say they trust a person like them or a peer recommendation before they'd trust a company's message. That means it's time to take a good long look at the options to get in this game.
I've read a lot of things about companies wanting to keep control while the social networks thrive around them. Maybe they think they can insulate themselves. More likely, the whole idea of just letting people talk is terrifying to those who are used to controlling the messaging down to every last phrase. But it's going to happen, with or without you. So be proactive.
A good start would be implementing tools on your web site that create interaction. Provide a way for people to post content, comment on articles and white papers, ask questions about case studies, allowing them to more clearly get how your product can impact their specific problem. Ask them questions back and really listen to what they say. Establish dialogue. It doesn't need to be intrusive. The less intrusive and demanding, the more room their is for trust to develop.
Create user forums and innovation discussion groups. Invite them to interactive conversations they can participate in. Hone your thinking down into working with smaller groups of individuals. Learn from their input.
Express your appreciation by responding. Implement some of their ideas and communicate that you've done so and why. Thank them for their participation. Acknowledge their input and lead them into further discussions that will help your company innovate.
You're a B2B company? Think this doesn't apply to you? Uh, think again. The companies you sell to have employees who have also discovered social networks. If one of their peers is recommending your competitor's products/services, where do you think your chances stand?
The ideas are endless. Be willing to try it.
Rick says: "Be willing to yield control of the message in favor of a rich dialogue, in which you learn by listening. Recognize the importance of repetition of the story in multiple venues, because nobody believes something he or she hears or sees for the first time."
How are you embracing horizontal communication in your organization?