Corporate Eye

Corporate Communications and Social Media: Genie Will Not Return to Bottle


Google’s new Sidewiki application lets web visitors share their opinions right next to any online content.  Visitors who turn on Sidewiki (which has to be downloaded from Google) can see what other Sidewiki users have said about the site they are viewing.

There’s a lot more to it, but the first main point is—it’s caused quite a stir in some quarters.  The estimable Jeremiah Owyang titled his post Google’s SideWiki Shifts Power To Consumers –Away From Corporate Websites, and outlines a scenario about what’s to come (and what social media strategists should be doing about it).

Media strategist John Zappe follows up with Google Gives HR Something New To Worry About.  Salient quote:  “Just imagine the mischief a disgruntled job seeker or employee can wreak by posting their story directly to your site. Side by side with your video of happy employees talking about the fun and interesting work they do is a post — or multiple posts — from current and former workers denouncing your message as bogus.”

The concept of community commenting is not actually new—there have been boutique apps that provide the same functionality.  It’s just that Google has such a huge reach.  And Sidewiki integrates with the popular Google toolbar.  So the potential impact really is worth considering . . .

If you’re wonk-ish, the Doc Searles Weblog offers a good start at outlining the debate with Whose Side(wiki) Are You On?

It’s interesting that the Sidewiki launch came along just days after a post in which HR thought leader John Sullivan declared:  Your Employer Brand Is No Longer Owned by Your Firm.  His picture is a lot bigger than just the potential impact of Sidewiki—and the title conveys the one fact everyone needs to be aware of.

In two words:  Done deal.

Did companies ever have the control over messaging they imagined they did?  Probably not.  But that doesn’t matter now.  What matters is that Genie has left the bottle, and won’t be going back in.

(The luscious illustration comes from Aladdin und die Wunderlampe, a German children’s book by Ludwig Fulda, with illustrations by Max Liebert.  Thanks to Project Gutenberg for making it available.)

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.