Since I started reading Naked Conversations by Robert Scoble (not yet finished, because I am very slow), I have been wondering how a blog can be used as a corporate communication tool, especially as a customer contact center. One of the difficulties with using a blog is, however, that any visitors can be anonymous and the comments can be irresponsible. Yet I’ve seen many corporations hesitate to use direct conversation tools such as BBS, as their way to directly communicate with their customers. Historically the corporations have, then, preferred the dialogue to be offline rather than online, which is often public. The inquiries have been handled by telephone and kept private. But now with the ever growing blogosphere, that will be less and less the case as we’ve observed such claims brought up in the blogosphere and got public and largely visible like in the case for Dell made by Jeff Jarvis last summer. That means the corporations will be more and more required to publicly talk with customers online or the dialogue gets public even/especially when they don’t want to. If that’s hard to accomplish overnight, then why not try the somewhat interim solution?
Then I thought of MIXI, Japan’s orkut, which I believe can be modified for that purpose. For, at MIXI the contents are open only inside MIXI (yet quite high in reach), all the participants become member via invitation and identified to some extent, and less worry about unidentified or irresponsible comments. Therefore, the corporations can be more aggressive and honest in talking with the customers, while maintaining quite a high reach. Note, as of this writing, its cumulative membership is 3,360,970 (including withdrawals), representing, in terms of subscription, about 33% of Japan’s largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shinbun (=10,082,425 copies). Inside MIXI, fan communities are abundant and run by, of course, volunteers: YouTube (2,596), COACH (fashion accessories, 5,074), Nintendo DS (6,388), SKYPE (10,564), to give you a few example, note: the number inside () is membership.
Suppose if MIXI were to offer the corporate services such that the corporations officially can have the direct contact point with its customers (blog-alike posts and comments, akin to the personal diary it currently offers for conventional users for free of charge), while making posts and communities searchable via its internal search engine. Then, at a premium, it might even offer the service pretty much like Google’s adwords or overture listing ad, with the search results highlighted at the top of the page inside MIXI.
The problem with event-marketing is, of course, that it is very expensive (think $100-1,000 a person) and you can only reach a small number of people at a time (think 100-1,000 people). Compare that to a TV commercial, radio ad, or Internet ad where you can reach someone for pennies a person–and millions of people at a time. Clearly the future of social networking is making online event marketing scale.