To Engage, or Not to Engage?

Yes, that is the question on the minds of marketers and entire businesses in today’s Web 2.0 world.

In our research and sales discussions, a fault line largely exists between those companies that are engaged and those that are not. A company either is hosting a forum, blogging and/or posting comments to blogs and forums (i.e. engaged in Web 2.0), or is dead-set against doing so.

Which is the right answer? Well, each company needs to decide that on their own. Benefits and risks certainly exist to both approaches. Whether to engage or not primarily depends on the risk/reward tradeoff for a given company. Below are some of the benefits and risks associated with each engagement decision:

To Engage

    Benefits

  • Capturing and leveraging real-time feedback from customers and prospects
  • Developing deeper customer relationships and loyalty
  • Creating increased sales opportunities
  • Improving return on marketing investments
  • Increasing brand awareness and presence on the Web
    Risks

  • Providing a public voice to negative viewpoints
  • Potentially resource-intensive unless properly managed
  • Negative publicity if engagement is only one-way rather than a dialog

To Not Engage

    Benefits

  • No risk of improperly engaging with the Web 2.0 community and of negative commentary
  • No required resource investment
  • No additional legal liability from posting improper content
    Risks

  • Being left out of the online conversation that may be influencing your prospects’ & customers’ decisions
  • Losing the opportunity to engage more directly with your customers and prospects
  • Missing an opportunity to improve the return on marketing investments

So, each company must make its own judgement about whether and when to participate in the Web 2.0 world, depending on its own context. Please join this discussion & post more benefits and risks in the comments below; I’m quite sure I’ve missed some.

What is clear though is that no company can afford to ignore the Web 2.0 world, and its implications to the enterprise as Enterprise 2.0. This train has left the station, and it is not returning. In fact, browse the benefits of not engaging above again and you’ll see these are mainly about avoiding downside as opposed to capturing any potential upside. Moreover, ask your newest recruits, and they will tell you that they know no other world that that of Web 2.0. I’m quite sure a large percentage live on the Web and have either a Facebook or MySpace page.

What’s more, in the near future full engagement with your customers, prospects, and yes even detractors across the Web will be a defacto way of life in business. Your customers will be living this way and making decisions based on what they find; they’ll expect you to be there. Those companies that are engaged across the Web and help their customers engage and make decisions will be the new market leaders.

Choose the pace and process for engaging that is dictated by your industry, company and context, but do not ignore the need to do so. Future market leadership hangs in the balance.

— brian

PS: for further reading and research, check out these resources:

  1. Select “enterprise2.0” or “corporateblogging” from my del.icio.us tags on the right sidebar of this blog and browse the links there
  2. Check out Backbone Media and their Corporate Blogging Survey for some good data and case studies related to blogging
  3. Browse the corporate blogs listed in the My Links page under Pages in the left hand sidebar of this blog