Thursday, May 23, 2013

Corporate Blog or Soap Box?

I was reading an interesting blog post this morning from a major international research and consulting company. The blogger discussed a new index their company was promoting to measure people's need for mobile use. I left a comment on how interesting and useful this concept was.

But that's not likely what got me in hot water. My comment also asked how their index of composite statistics of mobile device ownership and frequency and location of access can account for their claimed measure of people's  "expectations" of mobile ubiquity.

In addition, the blog compared findings from "Europe" (not specifying the countries surveyed) versus the United States.  A tiny footnote, however, indicates that findings from Canada were included in the "US" total (did they mean it as like "it's just like between us"?). So I also asked if  their "US" results were indeed compiled from both countries.  I wondered if they were performing "statistical manifest destiny".

Perhaps the bicentennial of the American invasion of Canada during the War of 1812 has inspired Americans to replace their muskets with statistics as their imperialist weapon of choice. Not only is saying results from both countries are representative of only one country misleading, it is also damn offensive! Not that I included my patriotic defence of my nation in my blog comment. I worded my comment rather neutrally (and attempted humorously).

My comment was live on the blog for about an hour and then it mysteriously disappeared.  I provided my email address, but no replies have been forthcoming.

I'm not naming the company as I intend to critique overall blogging practice more so than an individual blogger.

I get how my honest question exposes, in the best case scenario, insufficient detail provided in the original post. I figured a big multinational company would know what they are doing and would be able to respond to my comment with clarification. At worst, my comment publicly identified an Achilles heel, exposing the limits to their new hyped measure and its dubious validity.

So assuming the worst case scenario - is taking down my comment the best response?

From a corporate image and customer acquisition perspective, I can understand the fear that would motivate this censorship. But really, I'm not a stats expert and if I can so easily spot a limit of their work (if this is indeed the case) then many others will undoubtedly notice it too. I'm not a client of this company, but their censorship indicates to me that they are hiding something, that their work is bogus, and they are a bunch of charlatans. The company has lost all credibility with me.

A better course of action would be to let my comment stand, reply to my comment to point out any misconceptions I may have or to argue why they believe their measure is valid, and/or correct the original blog post. For example, I can't see any harm in changing the original post to not claim their findings represent just the U.S.and instead add in two words "and Canada". I think it even broadens the reach of their findings.

As a blogger, I have had several comments that were unfavourable, some even a bit derogatory. The anonymity, ease, and informality of commenting does result in some less-than-ideal comments. It's the nature of the beast. Bloggers, corporate or otherwise, should take comments with a grain of salt (as I believe many readers do) and allow for informality.

Responding to blog comments such as mine can instead be an opportunity to demonstrate expertise, openness, and a human side of a corporation (a sense of humour in such cases goes a long way!). Blog readers do not want to read puff or astroturf (self-published) comments or reviews. Most people don't reply to blog posts, but when they do it is an opportunity to foster lively, positive, and potentially viral discussion.

This all gets at the heart of corporate blogging.  If you don't want to hear from your public and engage honestly with them then don't have a blog. Despite their prevalence, all companies do not need to have a blog. Blogs are not right for every company in every situation.

There are other options: write online articles, publish white papers, distribute infographics, or many other options. To reiterate, BLOGS ARE NOT OBLIGATORY! But if you do one, do it right!

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