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Glen Pitt-Pladdy :: Blog

The Fuji saga part 6B....

Having just added another article earlier today on this subject, I checked my blog stats.  Interesting!

Attention Fuji!

It seems that the judgement might have got some attention at Fuji. There has been some unusual patterns of looking at the "Fuji Saga" blogs, and unusually large volumes of traffic from a single IP address examining the blogs in general.

After looking up the WHOIS record for that IP address, it turns out to be Fuji in London.

Hopefullys someone who is going to make some improvements.

Internet & business culture

I think this points to a very interesting phenomenon with the culture that is developing on the internet. Much of what we do these days becomes far more widely visible than it did - we discuss or write about our experiences and opinions online. I expect this to continue to increase.

This can have it's drawbacks - safety and security of individuals could be compromised by excessive information being available.  This is what much of the fuss about the dangers of social networking sites is about - people are allowing these sites to broadcast huge amounts of information to unknown / untrusted people all round the planet, but not considering what information is safe to broadcast. This is a particulary problem with children and teenagers many of which do not have the experience to fully understand the implications, and many adults clearly don't!

From a business point of view, the visibility of everything (particularly the bad stuff) may seem like a liability. Corporate culture is often very defensive and filled with insecure managers and "yes men" who try to keep what is actually going on covered up lest they get into trouble if more senior levels find out.

My take on this is that if there are people with issues or manipulating more senior management, that is their problem. Ultimately a business is about turning a profit and that would be what the top execs are focused on. I believe one of the best ways to do that is to create positive grass roots publicity. This is essentially what Google does - they do their work very publicly, and while things do sometimes go wrong, everyone (perhaps excluding the more traditional corporate world) understands and accepts that because Google doesn't go into defensive mode and instead remain open about stuff. This is disarming to bad publicity.

Where I currently work they do take advantage of online forums for creating positivie grass roots publicity. There are a number of members of staff that are active in discussion forums relating to the company business, and my experience to date shows that is pays - it's great publicity and potential customers feel far more confident in buying from someone they can discuss products with (or just see others discussing products with) instead of being held at arms length behind the marketing smoke screen.

One of the things that is often very difficult in business is to know what the market wants. By communicating directly with the market this becomes considerably easier - market feedback is direct. Some companies take advantage of this and put customer feedback directly into innovations in new products. Many forums on the net are discussing the features that people want in products, but many manufacturers will fail to take notice and fail to address these. Many of the ideas and concepts that companies spend a fortune coming up with are already sitting in online discussions waiting for someone to pick up.

Mirror, mirror on the net

Online communities also provide a good mirror for companies to look at themselves. Because of the number of people trying to "manage reality" to senior management in companies, senior management often becomes isolated from reality and only sees/hears what the rest of the company wants them to. Typical behaviour would be a large mess in some department, but through the corporate chain of command and "internal marketing", the senior management think all is well. This is compounded when senior management find out about stuff that was hidden from them and react badly - this frightens the lower management and results in even more aggressive "internal marketing".

There have been TV programs sending top execs down to ground level to see what really happens in their companies, but with the internet there is nothing to stop the board of a major company viewing or even participating in online forums and finding out what things are like from the customer's point of view. This gives them unprecedented ability to rectify failures in the operation of the company which would otherwise be invisible to them.

I think there are interesting times ahead as more companies catch on to this.... Some will take advantage of this to improve their service (and efficiency - after all goofs waste a disproportionate amount of company time) and benefit from direct visibility and grass roots marketing, others will resist and try and "manage" (suppress) anything negative. I would guess the former will be the big market players in the future seeing as the latter seem to be what most of the current big players try to do now. Seeing as in technical fields many knowledgeable people (often the ones in the forums) get asked for buying advice, I think this will be of particular benefit to companies selling technical products.


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