Are you a Purist or a Corporatist?

Last night, at the Blogger dinner in SF (see pics tagged ‘groundswell’), there were several discussions among the attendees from Josh, Shel, Debbie and others around their ideology and stance when it comes to the impacts of social media to companies.

Josh created a scale to help identify where peoples beliefs are, he describes it from his post as:


10 = The groundswell is such a powerful force, the people in it will always prevail. All companies can do is watch and listen. Their employees can participate, but only as independent people. Corporate efforts are doomed to fail.

9 =

8 =

7 = The groundswell is powerful, but companies have a role in it. Groups of people inside of enterprises can get together and make themselves heard. Even so, the groundswell will always prevail over their interests.

6 =

5 = Companies belong in the groundswell. They have interests just as the people do. They will set up corporate efforts — presences in places like Facebook or their own corporate blogs — and connect with their customers. They can’t shut down or co-opt people in the groundswell, but they can form meaningful relationships with them. And they can accomplish goals like marketing or collaborative innovation, if they respect that they’re not in charge.

4 =

3 =

2 = Corporations and other major institutions are powerful and will always be powerful. This so-called “groundswell” is similar to any other medium — people are there consuming it, and corporations can reach them within that medium. Flare-ups of negative publicity can be contained or at least “handled” so they cause minimal damage.

1 =

0 = Corporations have power because they have money. This groundswell thing is a flash in the pan and it doesn’t matter. If it gets too far out of hand we’ll buy it and make sure we control it.


To me, the industry shifts over time: there was a lot of purist talk from 2005-2006, books, presentations and blogs came in with strong cluetrain values. Then, we started to see monetization of social media, social media optimization, and agencies, pr, and marketers getting on board.

I fall in the 5-7 range, you’ll often hear me say that companies need to let go to gain more, and that the power (trust) is in the hands of the participants, so employees should participate.

How about you? But really think it through and explain why this is your belief.

Josh has responded to some of the comments he’s already received.