[caption id="attachment_245" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Hand Cuffs"]Hand Cuffs[/caption]

For those readers not from germany: Today there is an election in Germany and our politician used the time before to show off on how little they realize what is going on in the world. They will tell you how inspired they are by Barack Obamas fight for election last year. And then they will do the exact opposite. (Hold on there will be a lesson for business/IT/creative people to be learned)

Sure, they do use the Internet, but they won't use it to open discussion, they won't use it to get people involved. No! They use it to  present their absence of ability to motivate people. They use it to show us their old boring unbelievable promises. And of course it doesn't work. This brings a real danger with it. Because as soon as somebody steps up in the way Barack Obama did, speaks with the people, and listens to the reaction, he or she has the chance to win big ... without any relation to the goals of that person. So it might be something good or something really bad.

So the point is: Opinions are made in the internet today. The question is NOT if blogs are offering high quality journalism. The question is NOT if twitter is an important tool or just useless chatter. A lot of people are there, a lot of people listen to what people write there, and if you are not among them you'll loose.

This hold true for politicians, but also for companies. I guess in every company where the management isn't fast asleep people are wondering "Should we use twitter?", "Should we start a blog". These are the wrong questions. The question you should ask is:

How can we listen to our customers? How do we make sure we hear them when they complain? How do we enable the people that a willing to help, both inside and outside of your company? If you don't find a way to do that, your competition will. And suddenly they have twice the number of people working for them, while still spending the same amount of money for salaries. Because people will spread the word good or bad for free.

The whole thing is not at all about technology, but about your attitude. The task at hand is not to buy or build the coolest, newest shiniest web2.0 social media software, the task at hand is to communicate to your coworkers where the journey is heading, and then let them do the best to get there. If they use twitter ... great, if they blog ... great. Just make sure your people know where the journey is heading, and make it an attractive place to be.

If on the other hand you try to force it or control it prepare yourself for a big failure. If you control what they post, where they go, your coworkers will do what ever they have to do to make you walk away. But they won't invest in your mission.

Since all this happens out there in the open, shit will happen. Somebody will write something that wasn't supposed to become public knowledge. Somebody will complain about your stuff right there on your public page. Fight the temptation to delete everything that isn't nice and smooth. Instead join the discussion. People will see your point, they will see the other opinions, and if your point is just, the service and product worth their money, then every discussion is just good PR. But if your product isn't worth the many you better do something about it. Or you might just as well dig yourself a hole to hide in.

Oh, and by the way ... If you are german ... VOTE.