The first question of my FAQ was “How far should I go in the dialogue with the users? Can I accept controversy on my website? What moderation level is acceptable?”
I don’t start with the easiest one🙂. I sent a mail to Joseph Jaffe to ask his opinion about this. He was very kind to reply and told me that “you (brands) can never go far enough”. In that matter, AOL showed the way with the famous “Is internet a good or a bad thing” campaign (UK) followed by an open discussion on their website (Unfortunately, I don’t think this was archived).
Of course, there are famous cases that went a little out of hand (Vichy France, Chevy Tahoe or the first version of the Coke zero blog) but in those 3 cases, there was a lack of awareness of what the new web was all about.
The womma set some rules that comes down to the Honesty ROI:
- Honesty of Relationship: You say who you’re speaking for
- Honesty of Opinion: You say what you believe
- Honesty of Identity: You never obscure your identity
I tried hard and in vain to find examples that respected the womma code and that ended as a fiasco. On the other hand, except the AOL case, I don’t know any brand that dared to bring a controversial debate on its own website.
Should they? Isn’t the risk bigger than the potential benefit?
Let’s take extreme examples here: Should an SUV manufacturer or an energy company open a forum on global warming? Should Nike talk with its customers about children labour? Should a fast food giant open a debate on obesity related health issues?
What I usually answer on that question is that this conversation is happening anyway. The choice is not between let the conversation happen or not, it’s between participate or not.
But, IMHO, that matter becomes a little more complex when you represent a local branch of a multinational company (often with limited power to influence the value proposition).
Anyway, I try to present a set of rules:
– Think first🙂 and understand how an open dialogue will serve your company objectives
– Respect the womma code
– Don’t bring controversy about your brand where there wasn’t (even if I can imagine exceptions to this rule)
– Be transparent on the moderation rules (if any) and know the difference between critic and trolls
– Be transparent about your sphere of influence (especially for local branches of multinational companies): Are you just an advocate of your employer or can you transform the feedback into a new value proposition?
– Do not enter that kind of action if you don’t have a clue of what the new internet is all about
The “you can never go far enough” of Joseph Jaffe could be one of the taglines of the book he will publish in october. I’m confident that Jaffe’s analysis and rules will be much more relevant than mine…
Reminder for myself: include the book in my letter to Santa along with a better english.