I thought it would be helpful to start refining some of the ideas from my post that critiqued the cluetrain manifesto.
I characterize two different approaches to open communications with the use of social media by larger companies.
(1) The dedicated resources approach. A company controls which employees use social media to represent the company. As Ian Lurie suggests, “Smart companies like Dell empower their employees and then act on what those employees, and their customers, tell them.” Resources empower dedicated employees to make rapid progress with this strategy. Dell and Macromedia used this approach.
(2) The inspiration approach. Every employee is encouraged to use social media to connect with customers and peers in their industry. No real resources are provided to those employees who are inspired to conduct a dialogue using social media technologies. Centers of excellence are set up where similar to the dedicated approach employees are empowered with resources to act in an effect to inspire the wider employee community. Channel9 at Microsoft is the best example of this strategy in action. Microsoft, SUN, and IBM used this approach.
While both approaches have produced great results, it is my sense that the dedicated approach has had better overall results for a company.