Your company’s urge to tweet

is wrong.

Have you not noticed? Every time something new comes up – be it newsgroups, the commercial web, portals, blogs, facebook, twitter, whatever – your company wants to do ever more talking. And all it has to say is “we’re the market leaders” and, in the end, “buy our product”. How interesting.

So, more likely than not, you spammed newsgroups, created uninteresting brochure-ware websites when the commercial web came around, then bought banner ads like there were no tomorrow, perhaps even created a lame corporate-blog, as if you were not producing enough stupid pr.

All this is so wrong and so stupid. It seems to misunderstand the fundamental change we have witnessed: that on the web – not just on so-called “social media” – everybody can talk. All you need to do is be interesting, and then get out of the way, and your customers will do the talking for you.

So here come Facebook and Twitter, and now you want to have a fan page, and friends, and followers. You would never dare say you need to change that lame corporate site of yours, but on “web2.0” you want to be perceived as hip and friendly and down to earth. I know, it’s a lot more fun.

And so you push hard until you are allowed to launch “a twitter initiative” and “a strategy for facebook”. You bring in funny-dressed “web2.0” types as consultants, then you set up “a plan” and “goals”, and carefully determine who should be twittering and what he/she should and should not say.

Sometimes, you even totally outsource your “social media” activities to some “web2.0 agency” that will do the talking for you and try to make you come out as web-savvy and friendly. And when you reach a couple thousand friends or followers, you declare it a success. Mission accomplished. Yeah.

A couple thousand people willing to receive – not necessarily read – the 140 characters messages coming out from Big Corp. to its millions of customers is considered “a success”. Wow. Gotta love this “web2.0” thing. No need to change anything inside the company, and it’s impossible to fail.

And you get a lot of press, too, and you can go on and say in your CV that you took care of Big Corp.’s “presence on twitter”. How different is it from what online marketing managers were doing with Second Life a couple of years ago? Does it really add any value to the company? I doubt it.

In the meantime, beneath the friendly “web2.0” pose, life goes on as usual at Big Corp. Pr flacks push hard to sell their story to newspapers, and perhaps put ad spending on hold if the paper does not comply; negative blog posts are more often than not dealt with by lawyers; and nobody inside the company gets to do any talking except those who have long forgotten how to speak in a human voice. But you have a tagcloud on your website, and a thousand fans on Facebook, and followers on Twitter. Life is good, and there’s no need to change. No need to change Big Corp’s company culture; no need to confront the market; no need to be open and down to earth and accessible; no need to fearlessly show on your website what is being said about you online on blogs and Twitter and no need to let your employees take part in the conversation; no need to be interesting and friendly so that thousands of people will happily spread the good news about you to thousands of their real friends and followers. With a nice “web2.0” mask on you can fool yourself that there’s no need (for now) to face up to the fact that Obama, not Eisenhower, is now President and we’re not in 1950 anymore.