Big business blogs will discredit social software
It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.Hmmmmmm. This is dislike vehemently. It undermines the transparency which I personally believe is the bloggers credo. Publishing things fed by PR companies word-for-word and not disclosing the sources is an attempt to promote themselves as fonts of new and exclusive information rather than acting as a critical resource which challenges the decisions of such efforts.
Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.
I recently told a friend (employed by a multinational communications corporation) who is enthused about this new "social software" and keen to not be left behind in the apparent wave of uptake, that the decision of a company to use such media is one which should not be taken lightly. If these software devices are co-opted by PR and marketing folks, it will undermine the credibility of the whole phenomenon. It will turn it into a propagnada machine commoditized for the purposes of pushing products ONLY, rather than encouraging better business practices and interaction between consumer and creator.
Robin Hamman "is not offended" by this approach because he feels that it could be used to benefit grassroots and charitable organisations:
I don't find myself particularly offended by this approach, a technique I've long thought charities and grassroots political campaigners should do more of. The idea is to build relationships with friendly bloggers and feed them exclusive content, letting them use that content to build support for your cause, if not for your organisation, from the ground up. I'm thinking, for example, Amnesty making photos of an inhumane prison available to bloggers, or Greenpeace giving a blogger the opportunity to do a podcast from a anti-whaling operation.The purpose of PRs is to get information out through the correct channels. The purpose of the critical journalist is to deconstruct this information and place it in context. If there is no disclosure about the source or if agendas are not presented up-front and are discovered later, the journalist is not doing his or her job and the action undermines the trust consumers have in the technology.
Technologists will go elsewhere and will seek out other sources which they deem appropriate to their ontology. The non-critical general public won't know the difference and may be turned off the technology all together.
Furthermore, as Sara at GU said the other evening over dinner, big businesses must be aware of what blogs and other social software technologies are there to do: to encourage interaction. How would big corporates feel about having negative news and opinions gracaing their own webpages/corporate blogs?
Tread carefully lest you step on poo.