On social

I’m sure that no one would disagree that for the last several years, the word most used in Web 2.0 is “social”. Social, as in social networks, social games, social feeds, social bookmarking, social search, social websites, or really, social anything! The thing is, in fact, it took quite a bit of time before companies stopped the talking the social game, and really started walking it. Of course, many large companies have strongly embraced “social”, including Facebook ads, fan pages, apps, Twitter buzz, LinkedIn groups, and others in their marketing mix. Additionally, brand websites and corporate websites are becoming more social as well: visitors can register and create a profile, blogs with commenting plug-ins are implemented, Twitter feeds are added and sometimes these sites feature full blown fora, message boards or even come close to creating proprietary social networks.

This is an interesting trend for both consumers and brands alike. These online channels drive scalable interaction and communication between consumers and brands, in both directions. Companies can more easily identify their so called brand ambassadors and treat them in appropriate ways. Consumers finally see the barriers to interact with huge corporate organizations lowered and are happy to have a channel to ventilate their personal opinion on products or services they use daily. Everybody’s happy. Win-win!

However, all great (and small) evolutions come with negative aspects. Opening up your corporate websites and allowing anyone to share opinions, musings, rumors or just anything they like to share, makes a brand vulnerable. Since any product, any service, or any brand will have both lovers and haters, the discussion between the two camps could be beneficial for the brand, especially if the discussion is steered in a positive way. This is called “brand caring” and it’s something I believe every company should do.

However, the more active your blog, forum or discussion board becomes, the more visitors it attracts, and the more likely it will be that you’ll bump into, well, … spammers. Those “contributors” do not care about your brand, products or services and likely don’t even know on which domain they’re posting comments. Usually they’re just “bots” that identify interesting targets, sometimes create a profile and start spamming your website, ruining the experience for other visitors and damaging your brand reputation. Deleting these spam entries is just too time consuming and too costly – especially when you can allocate your human capital to other projects while letting Mollom’s spam filter do the work for you. Don’t worry about accuracy: for over 99% of all posted content, Mollom makes the right decision (and either classifies the message as spam or ham). So for every site owner thinking about joining the “online” social revolution: don’t hesitate to do so, but be prepared to counter spam attacks if your site is getting more and more popular. Mollom is a tool that helps you do that.

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