Some Questions You Might Get Asked

by Andrew McAfee on June 30, 2008

As I’ve talked with many different audiences over the past two years about Enterprise 2.0, I’ve noticed that the same questions keep coming up, and I wanted to capture them. I’ll talk about the best answers to these questions later, and also about which of them seem to be most legitimate — to reflect the real risks a company takes on when it deploys emergent social software platforms (which from now on I’m just going to abbreviate as ESSPs). For now I just wanted to list them, and to make sure that I’m not missing any common ones. 

For internal ESSPs, here’s the FAQ:

  • What if employees use the their internal blogs to post hate speech or pornography, or to harass a co-worker? 
  • What if blogs are used to denigrate the company itself, air dirty laundry, or talk about how misguided its leadership and strategy are? 
  • What if nasty arguments break out in a discussion forum and the whole thing descends into name-calling and flame wars?
  • Won’t people be tempted to use forums to talk about current events, review movies, ask for advice about camcorder purchases, and have other non work-related conversations? 
  • What if people waste time filling up their employee profile pages with pictures of their kittens and vacations? 
  • Will people just use social networking software to plan happy hour, rather than to get work done? 
  • Don’t Enterprise 2.0 platforms just yield another source of discoverable content —  material that must be turned over as part of a lawsuit or other legal action? 
  • If the information on these platforms really is valuable, won’t it be harvested by spies and sold to the highest bidder? 
  • Won’t hackers break in to our Enterprise 2.0 platforms and steal their content? 
  • Don’t these technologies make it easier to deliberately or inadvertently leak secrets to the outside world? 
  • Don’t they make it too easy for confidential information to leap over our internal Chinese Walls? 
  • If we give up tight control over our Intranet’s content, how can we possibly avoid running afoul of all potentially relevant regulations and laws around information sharing in all the places we do business?

The list of concerns grows when an organization also considers extending Enterprise 2.0 tools and approaches to external groups like prospective customers, actual customers, suppliers, and other community members:  

  • What if an unhappy customer uses uses our community site to air their grievances, and to talk loudly and often about our lousy products or Kafkaesque customer service? Or a supplier uses them to complain about how we never pay on time? 
  • Are we responsible and liable if people give incorrect information or bad advice on question and answer forums we host on our Web site?  
  • If we try to take advantage of lead-user innovation and ask people to submit their ideas to us, who owns the resulting intellectual property —  do we have to share resulting revenues and/or profits with the submitter?

What am I missing?  Are there frequently-asked questions that aren’t on this list?  If so, what are they?  Leave a comment, please, and let us know.

And if you’d like to share your favorite answers to any of these, we’re all ears.


christian briggs June 30, 2008 at 11:42 pm

I’ve been talking with a lot of SMB’s about E2.0/Social Media quite a bit of late. Your list is pretty complete.

My favorite response to the “What if an unhappy customer uses uses our community site to air..” question usually goes something like: (varies depending on the context)

“Your customers are already airing their grievances in a thousand places you have yet to find. Better to have them look like a nay-sayer on your front porch than a Nader in the public eye.”

Another common question i hear with regard to customer involvement is “Why would a customer want to go online to talk about my business?” Do you also hear this within the context of larger organizations?

Michael Netzley July 1, 2008 at 12:12 am

Hi Andrew,

Great list and thanks for pulling this together. One thing I always tell companies, and my students, is that the conversations you describe are already taking place. They happen in the pub over a beer, at a business lunch with colleagues, over sms, and also the telephone. The difference is that when these conversations take place on a media property such as a corporate blog, for example, you now for the first time know exactly what is being said by whom and when. You now have the opportunity to respond and engage the person giving the feedback. You also can document the feedback and share it with the proper business unit. Running from this opportunity makes little sense. If somebody cares enough to write about your company, product, or service (rather than just walk away and never tell you why they are unhappy), then hopefully everyone sees the opportunity before us.

Atul Rai July 1, 2008 at 1:13 am

Hi Andrew, i do believe you have more or less covered it all. :-)

The argument i would have to answer quite a few of these questions is that a lot of the questions raised relate to things already happening … these are part of human nature, not the exclusive domain of social computing. Only thing social networking tools are allowing people to do is to create relationships, which can be leveraged for work, and pleasure.

As for time wasting (read posting photos of vacation), every organization has the system of setting performance targets, and appraising performance against these. I would expect this process to address time-wasting!

Larger concern is the possibility of information leakage. Its not to say that leakage doesnt happen now, but its just that social computing tools could act as a catalyst. Which is where, when within the firewall, there might be the requirement to build some amount of walls around content which is considered sensitive (and please dont treat your annual report as being sensitive, especially when its already been released to the markets!). The point i am trying to make is, there is the temptation to mark everything as sensitive. There must be mechanisms to address this, otherwise nobody gets to access anything.

Lois Griffin July 1, 2008 at 12:55 pm


I feel your list is a great start to what is likely an ever changing debate. I look forward to seeing some of your replies to these questions and the addition of new FAQ’s as they arise.

PaulSweeney July 2, 2008 at 7:40 am

One of the real life concerns is “who has control” over where and when the end customer is contacted, what is said to them, and was this response within our stated policy”. When people are given the opportunity to speak “person to person”, and to “go one further” to solve a customer problem it results in fantastic customer service experiences. However, does such open conversation leave the company open to litigation? i.e. “oh yeah, we have that problem with the 9041 model all the time, it doesn’t seem to work”…. etc. etc.

Another issue is “where is my data” at all times? If it is flowing in and out of various services, how can I certify that I have been not only respectful with my customers information, but that I have been at all times compliant with regulations?

Enterprise 2.0 offers need to be Focused and measurable in their impacts. Saying that it is an “emergent system” is unlikely to endear it to an executive whose reputation and job could be on the line if there is a strong downside. So my final point is “what is the measurable metric impacted by your enterprise 2.0″.

Tim Lankow July 3, 2008 at 11:33 am

As a social media consultant, I have found that it is take a lot of time to engage in social platforms online. Thus, I do think that it would be a huge distraction. In response to the previous comments, I think it would be interesting to find out what people are really saying in an open environment. However, it could potentially create the leak of secrets and the misuse of disgruntled employees.

Wiertz Sebastien July 3, 2008 at 3:53 pm


This list seems to be complete but I would like to remark that exactly the same questions rose in the 90’s with the emergence of emails and forums inside companies. Emails and forums could then already be used to make flame wars, publish pornography, and harass colleagues but certainly in a minor scale than what you could do with the newest technologies. As you can see today, we are overloaded by emails despite those risks. Later, we received the same question when we implemented enterprise search engines which help surfacing hidden and sometimes confidential information from their “hidden” area (most of the time this information was already public but the access was not easy). In fact, every time information is shared using new technology, intellectual property concerns rise among management. Those concerns are founded and we should never forget that the future of a company largely depends on its ability to keep information within its walls. A company is not a democracy and employees will always naturally think twice before publishing something on their site which could have a negative impact on management. Moderation is always possible but by experience I see that people were already shy to publish something in a Forum so I see no reason why ESSPs would suddenly change that in any way :coolmad:

friarminor July 3, 2008 at 9:52 pm

So far, your list is good, Andrew!

Don’t think I have a question much less a concern on how management controls are set up and its effect on healthy participation enough to reduce dependence on emails.

Talk about being burnt so as to freeze and not make a move anymore, Atul. Point on sensitive stuff is real.


Martial July 4, 2008 at 8:10 am


It seems to me that few things might be missing. Something like : “how do I change the culture of the company towards having people willing to share, participate in what I see as a tool that could enable more creativity?”. Or, “I believe my company is “E2.0 ready”, but should I decide to go for it in a full fledge manner, what are the indicators I can use to really measure the impact of the implementation of the E2.0 tool kit? and what would the cost of its implementation ?”…

$ runs the world, doesn’t it ?
Cheers and thanks for the post

Sim July 6, 2008 at 3:56 am

A very comprehensive set of concerns by the management.

I have posted my views at

It will be good if I have the trackback for your blog post.

Mark Scrimshire July 6, 2008 at 5:54 pm

One of the questions I am frequently asked addresses the concern about erroneous information being posted.

My response to this concern is that collaboration technologies make us much better off than we are when working in a purely email-based paradigm.

See my blog post on the subject for more on this subject:

Kate Elphick July 7, 2008 at 8:02 am

Many of my clients have recognised that web 2.0 is like “enough rope”; you can either hang yourself with it or you can climb mountains.

The challenge now is which mountains and how high do we want to climb?

The questions that I am getting these days are around how do we develop a strategy for enterprise 2.0 which is consistant with our business model and our brand?

Kate Elphick

Malcolm Kass July 7, 2008 at 8:19 pm

Basically echoing everything above, outside of “What do you have regarding an ROI?” We are trying to come up with something, but yeah, not easy. Basically looking at time savings

Malcolm Kass July 7, 2008 at 10:48 pm

I think that Michael Netzley touches upon a marketing communication point. I am begining to think the answer “your employees are doing it anyway” regarding non-work related e2.0 discussions is a poor marketing/sales communications. With marketing, everything should revolve around finding solutions to your customer’s needs and the answer above sounds more like “its no different than what you are dealing with before, so what is the concern?” I bet this answer rubs people the wrong way, for employee lack of focus IS a problem for these decision makers, a problem they would like a solution for. I don’t know the “answer”, but it seems that a good way to answer such as question is to demonstrate how our e2.0 offerings can solve even this issue.

Bergen Larsen July 8, 2008 at 10:09 am

In South Africa we’ve got a very good website which is dealing with complaints and compliments in a centralised spot. The few times I’ve used it to grumble about my complaints, I’ve had the organisations respond to me very quickly.

My personal point of view is, if an organisation is so worried about its image, surely it would want to know what’s being said and take steps to correct the perception, either in addressing the problem and solving it. If you don’t know about it, how do you fix it?

If your employees have a problem with your company, then you are just looking for trouble. Rather hear about it, address their concerns.. otherwise your customers will know by the quality of work/service they deliver. Customers should get the service they expect when they expect it.Organisations have the power to manage expectations… if it knows what to manage.

Technology is just a way to find out if we are doing a good job as a business. Be it an enterprise or an small home business. Use the knowledge you’ve been given to solve problems. Gather knowledge given by people freely and do something constructive with it. Don’t be afraid of the issues being aired, they will help you grow as an organisation, better your environment for employees and customers alike. Both will grow your profits.

Sarah M. July 8, 2008 at 4:16 pm

While upper management “decision makers” are sitting around figuring out how to make Enterprise 2.0 consistent with your company’s business model and brand, most of the millennial “individual contributers” within your company will already be a decade ahead of you…

The time is not now for Enterprise 2.0 — the time has passed. All companies, especially those that move very slowly in terms of decision making, need to be thinking on to the next big thing, not worrying about something that they need to run to catch up to.

Stephan Schillerwein July 9, 2008 at 6:05 am

Some more points from my experience that could be added to the list (all by no means specific to enterprise 2.0 only):

– We see that all this stuff can have positive impact on productivity and creativity, but what’s the ROI?

– We already have more information than anyone can handle, isn’t this just going to build huge amounts of additional (and potentially unrelevant) content (that will finally break our internal search engine etc.)?

– What other companies (from my sector) have already REALLY implemented this?

Resim Yukle July 14, 2008 at 11:55 am

Critisizing some work must break the spirit of work. By the way, there’s so much critical questions. Some of these problems can be solved by generating a content management system. And maybe an auto content searcher (reviewer) system (by words) can prevent bad consequences. But i’ll add an important one in my opinion.

what if the content of communities doesnt advance enough to make people glad?

tv online July 27, 2008 at 4:42 am

Your list is good, Andrew!
I look forward to seeing some of your replies to these questions.

OPSEC August 3, 2008 at 4:51 am

When I implemented a social networking aspect in my workplace, I was admittedly pretty naive about employee reactions.
I was actually shocked to see some of these issues come up, even though it was restricted to an intranet!
I think that a specific form of social networking etiquette is evolving, especially as individuals that grew up with SN join the workforce.

Dianna Volkov December 10, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Great questions!

I agree with other posters that ROI is a huge question – How do you measure it? How can you show that E2.0 is a time-saver?

Another question, or topic rather, is information retrieval.
– Is it better to force a heirarchical structure (say with a series of topic-based wikis) or have a free-for-all, search-dependent structure (as with wikipedia)? What factors make one better than the other?
– How do users know that what they are getting is the most accurate on the site? It does no good for Manager X to post a template for purchase orders, if Secretary Y posts a slightly different one as well. What are effective information-ownership methods?

Alex September 1, 2009 at 1:43 pm

This faq is just what I was looking for, thank you so much!

jobyweeks November 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Tim Lankow does not do what he says he is going to do. I should know, I have known him for more than a decade and considered him one of my best friends until he started stealing from me. When confronted he lies and makes up excuses for his unprofessional behavior. I would be very cautious in doing business with him. Make sure he delivers before you pay him or you will probably end up like the rest of us calling, emailing and going through the gambit trying to get him to either give you your money back or complete the job you hired him to do. I would never do business with him but its up to you to make that call. Just remember to watch out. He, like his father who has more than 50 judgements against him, is a very smooth talker. Just remember, the apple doesnt fall far from the tree.

Anonymous November 29, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Tim Lankow does not do what he says he is going to do. I should know, I have known him for more than a decade and considered him one of my best friends until he started stealing from me. When confronted he lies and makes up excuses for his unprofessional behavior. I would be very cautious in doing business with him. Make sure he delivers before you pay him or you will probably end up like the rest of us calling, emailing and going through the gambit trying to get him to either give you your money back or complete the job you hired him to do. I would never do business with him but its up to you to make that call. Just remember to watch out. He, like his father who has more than 50 judgements against him, is a very smooth talker. Just remember, the apple doesnt fall far from the tree.

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