Online social channels like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and StumbleUpon make it far easier for customers to find information about your company. That's the good news. But here's a problem: It's also the bad news.
Dell's Chief Blogger Lionel Menchaca alluded to the issue when I interviewed him earlier this year for a piece called No Longer Next Big Thing, Blogs Still Key Part of Social Media Strategy. He told me the proliferation of channels made it tough to "bring content from all of our channels to different audiences as it becomes relevant to them." The problem is obviously compounded when one considers all of the customer conversations about Dell that don't orignate from Dell itself. The growing numbers of channels also make it harder for to Dell plumb all of the decentralized content for insights. Dell, and other companies, will need to devote more resources to social media as new sites continue to crop up.
Customers may feel equally frustrated. Do you trust your go-to social channels for information about a company? Or do you want to broaden your horizons? If you do, who has that kind of time? Could companies themselves help solve this problem for you?
Sure, writes Forrester Research's Jeremiah Owyang on his Web Strategy blog. Predicting more companies will begin aggregating this social content at their corporate Web sites, he writes:
Conversations and content have fragmented and distributed on the web, as a result, corporate websites are generally irrelevant. Expect brands to start to centralize these discussions on or near their corporate website in order to bring trust and relevance back to the corporate website.
He mentions several early examples, including Sun, IBM, Zappos and Kinaxis, a supplier of supply chain management software. He expects such content to be sorted by recency, relevancy or other prioritization patterns like Techmeme. Branding for such efforts will be lightweight at first, but will likely integrate with the overall look and feel of corporate Web sites as the strategy gains momentum.
The challenges, writes Owyang, include finding all of the relevant content and succumbing to the natural tempation to filter out legitimate negative comments along with the spam and hate speech. Addressing the latter point, he predicts:
Expect there to be customer backlash as their complaints are not publicly aggregated on the corporate web pages. Internally, expect social advocates to battle with brand preservationists who don't want negative reviews on product pages.
He says likely players include startups that will extend the capabilities of Friendfeed, existing data repositories like Technorati and Delicious, content management system vendors like Vignette and Documentum, and innovative online marketing specialists like Federated Media.