Social media in corporations will eventually become normal sometime in the future. Until then, we have to learn how to ease their fears of allowing just anybody say bad things about them if they, say, launch a blog.

Online conversations about your company will happen with or without you. So relax and try to realize that participating in the blog, interacting with the comments posted by your readers/customers/employees is really just a big suggestion box or focus group.

Public decency

Sure, any negative comments are public (gasp!) but so are your professional replies to them. The world (whoever stumbles upon your blog and traditional media when something newsworthy/damaging happens) will see that your company is a company which listens to its customers, take actions to correct any mistakes it might have made and take suggestions on improving its products or services (IdeaStorm). Why wouldn’t you want that to be public?

Blogging, podcasting, whatever, no matter which format, getting into social media successfully requires participation. Should the need arise, don’t be afraid to dedicate someone to social media relations.

Richard Binhammer of Dell has such a position. I had the chance to hear him speak at a social media gathering here in Toronto called Third Tuesday. Richard talked about Dell’s positive experiences with participating directly with the blogosphere and how it turned around the customer service and product quality nightmare they were going through at the time (Direct2Dell).

Respond fast

Timely replies to posts and comments on your corporate or anybody else’s blog is crucial. You can’t waste a couple of days going through bureaucratic approvals and the legal department. The issue would have spiraled out of control by then when a simple reply from the blogger relations dude (or dudette) in a down-to-earth tone would save the day in minutes.

Richard mentioned that every time he posts a comment on a blog, even when it’s a negative post he’s replying to, the blogger is impressed of his action followed by a positive post. The message being propagated is Dell listens to what bloggers (read: customers) have to say and they can help improve their product/service. Take a look at IdeaStorm. As of this writing, “The Dell Community has contributed: 7942 ideas | promoted 556417 times | 55845 comments”.

Stay engaged

Richard also stresses to participate in positive posts as well. The way I see it, those are your fans (read: satisfied customers) who will vouch for you when a crisis hits. In other words, participating in social media is all about building relationships.

Dell blogs and stuff

It’s a no-brainer that Dell feels comfortable enough to launch an investor relations blog called DellShares. Great idea and about time a corporation had thought of being a little more transparent to their shareholders. Kudos to Dell! Also check out StudioDell which is full of videos and podcasts about using Dell products (or as they say,”the full Dell experience”).