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The Cluetrain Changes Business Strategy

Michael Walsh writes his answers to Richard Binhammer from the cluetrain questions I had asked Richard. Mike provides one of the most interesting posts on the questions, when he describes in very personal terms what affect the thesis and book has on his thinking and life. He has attempted to encourage Acer to adopt social media by practice, but finds that he might have to go elsewhere to enact the changes he wants to see occur. I personally think the most interesting work ahead for social media proponents is within the corporation, yet sometimes you do have to change companies to effect change.

Question three stated:

3) In thesis 57, the Cluetrain manifesto states, "smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner." In light of that thesis, is encouraging employees to use social media and blogging a good idea? Is it really effective, when an employee is encouraged but not directed?

Michael's answer was interesting; Michael contrasted the two approaches to blogging guidelines between HP and Dell. HP put comments at arms length; ownership is not HP's, while Dell embraces comments. Less a difference of intention and more a difference in the subtle understanding that Dell has to be fully committed to discussion and action about its products and company through social media.

Here's a quote from my comment on Michael's post:

"One of the issues that prompted me to write the questions originally was the sense that there were some gaps in implementation and success. Not sure if that’s because of later interpretation, but I agree with you, Dell’s interpretation does appear to be the right approach. Yet, ironically, the results from that interpretation is less about encouraging every employee to blog or use social media (Dell is starting to do that as well) and more about giving employees the resources to communicate with an entire community."

In critiquing the cluetrain manifesto, I wanted to discuss how companies are implementing ideas from the cluetrain manifesto for engaging customers online. I thought that companies should not just encourage their employees to blog, but also actually give employees the power to talk on behalf of the company. I think Mike has hit on a very important point here, that companies have to make a commitment in taking action on the results of conversation within a community. The question is less about is a company willing to use social media, and more about is a company willing to make business strategy changes because of the feedback and conversations with customers and the community? I know the answer to that question for Dell is a definite yes, for HP I don't know, I never asked.

When I worked at Backbone Media, and was in the midst of conducting the case studies for the Backbone Media Corporate Blogging Survey 2005, I was actively looking for companies that were using blogs for product development. That's important, but I think the question should have been wider. Are companies using social media for business strategy development?