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How Not to Engage the Blogosphere

Posted by Colin Kingsbury

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Sep 28, 2006 11:51:00 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_sock_puppetSock puppetry can be loosely dtomatoworm1efined as whenever someone comments under false pretenses. It is a cardinal sin in a world which defines itself largely by the ideal of the trustworthiness of individual over collective voices. A week or so ago, Monster VP Neil Bruce dismissed the blogosphere as a sideshow for recruiting*, so perhaps it shouldn't come as a suprise that the multi billion-dollar company would get busted trying to anonymously trash a Joel Cheesman.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
The irony of this is that had the Monster person commented openly and nicely suggestd that Joel understood the ad incorrectly, the company would have come out looking far more positive, more so even than if the "sock puppet" hadn't been outed as such. This holds a crucial lesson for PR, marketing, and HR departments.

Teach Your Employees Well
If a reporter from the New York Times called, most employees in your company would likely issue the default "no comment" and direct them to your media relations office. Online however the same people very often feel a false sense of both privacy and anonymity, commenting as though they were talking to a casual acquaintance at the corner bar. In fact, comments posted on blogs and other online forums may as well be painted on billboards considering the number of people they may reach.

I believe companies have much to gain from allowing employees to participate openly on various online venues, especially in terms of recruiting. Hearing and interacting with living, breathing human employees at BigCorp Inc. can go a long way to humanizing large organizations that often appear dismayingly opaque and monolithic to an outsider. However, employers also need to make sure that employees understand that things like sock-puppetry and engaging in drawn-out "flamewars" do not benefit the company and should not be engaged in.