I had fun this week visiting with Richard Brewer-Hay, the blogger who presides over eBay Ink, eBay’s official corporate blog. We talked about his adventures interacting with the gigantic, highly opinionated community of communities that’s made up of people interested in eBay, PayPal, StubHub, and other eBay-owned sites and services. (I’ve never met an eBay user who doesn’t have strong opinions on it, although the same person may be fiercely positive or fiercely negative depending on when I ask.)
Richard is also in charge of the eBay Ink Twitter feed, and one thing he said about Twitter resonated with me. Some of his followers prefer to make contact with him at Twitter over the eBay Blog itself, because eBay has complete control over the blog and very little control over its presence on Twitter. They’re suspicious that eBay might be tamping down dissent in the blog’s comments, and pleased that Richard couldn’t suppress @replies and other tweets about eBay even if he wanted to do so.
(In reality, Richard says, eBay Ink’s comments are much less ruthlessly moderated than some people suspect, and those that say stuff like “I know you won’t approve this comment, but…” do get approved, almost by definition. Makes sense to me: When I worked at PCWorld back in the golden age of ink on paper, we tried to publish most of the letters to the editor that included the words “I know you won’t publish this, but…”)
Anyhow, one of the great things about Twitter is the degree to which it’s democratic, uncensored, and open. The only way for a company to look good on Twitter is to be good on Twitter–by answering questions, solving problems, and generally being a force for good. That’s a virtue that corporate sites don’t have–and even Facebook falls short. (I’ve never deleted comments from Technologizer’s Facebook page, but I could if I wanted.)
As Richard’s experience shows, it’s not just cool that Twitter is so raw–it’s cool that everyone knows it’s raw. When people are positive a conversation is uncensored, it removes the layers of self-censorship and paranoia that get in the way of interactions with companies they do business with. I might have known that subconsciously, but it was neat to hear Richard articulate it.
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