While the learners, users and customers of companies are becoming more curious, more engaged and more vocal, the companies themselves are clinging to their strict and outdated policies, rules and control.
They are in danger of, and already are, losing employees and customers who could be benefiting their organisation. While they try to control and restrict these people, they are fostering negative groups and holding themselves back.
I was thinking about my own experiences with organisations and stories of others, such as the Waterstones employee sacked for blogging about his workplace, or the recent high profile cases of companies closing down private sites with negative comments about them.
In the case of the Waterstones employee, rather than chat with him about the issue and then exploit his knowledge of blogging, they sacked him, and look where the organisation is today, their main website reads more like a blog with staff mini-blog/reviews throughout.
Rather than recruit him and exploit his knowledge at the time, they held the company back, and ignored the growing trends and marketplace, and let the knowledge and expertise leave the organisation.
There are many examples where an organisation quickly leaps to outdated rules and structure to shut an employee down who is blogging about their organisation, or to quickly start legal proceedings against a customer who is blogging about their experience, and it’s these very organisations who are missing out on the marketing and customer engagement opportunities offered through the blogging and social network channels.
Rather than sack, punish or raise a legal action against the employee or customer and suddenly create a group of individuals who have a negative and outspoken view of the organisation, why not engage them and redirect their passion into the organisation?
What if Waterstones had, instead of sacking the employee, offered them a role as a blogging evangelist in the organisation if they shut down their current blog and redirected their work? They could have begun a pro-Waterstones blog, talking about the company and leading other employees to blog about books and the positive aspects of the company as well as engaging customers directly in a two way dialogue about the marketplace and their products.
Wouldn’t that have offered a much more advantageous result rather than the bad press and the employee and his circle of friends turning away from the organisation?
In the case of customers being shut down by legal action from companies, they again create a group of negativity which can spread. Instead they could offer the blogger a role as a corporate blogger and address customer concerns and issues head on, solving them and appearing as a caring and engaging organisation.
There seems to be no real engagement of these people, and many organisations still see the need to shut them down by whatever means necessary rather than engage them, address their concerns, and spin the situation around to a positive for themselves.
Organisations need to wake up to what’s happening around them, customers and employees are becoming more engaged and more vocal, they are becoming more involved and aware of their choices and about the news behind the headlines and the corporate front desk.
With that they need to address this new information need and flow and get involved, control it, lead it, and engage with their customers and employees. Stop the knowledge from leaving their organisation, create a positive view of their organisation and start the exchange before someone else does – and if they do? Employ them and use them.