On November 5th, I wrote in Sydney Morning Herald’s Razor blog:
Wiki collaborative efforts work beautifully. Telstra may indeed have plenty of smarties but even smart people get in a rut, going round and round and round. They may find that more viewpoints and input equals greater creativity of solutions. And if the “smarties” really had everything under control, they wouldn’t be facing the situation they have today, no? A wiki intiative wouldn’t hurt and might actually help, at least people would feel they had a say. If Sol can raise customer satisfaction with something as simple as forums or a wiki, why not do it?

Gotta say, I didn’t expect them to listen. Now We Are Talking is Telstra’s newest initiative into online communities.
We want to hear what you think. We’ll publish different views so everyone can join in the discussion.

Yahoo! has an interesting article.
A new Web site designed by Telstra to promote its views direct to the community has become the latest battlefield for telecommunications regulation and competition.
Havyatt told ZDNet Australia that Telstra’s new Web site was a positive move but didn’t go far enough.
While giving the carrier credit for making available forums that allow people to make unfavourable postings, Hayvatt said the site would “probably not” provide a good platform for debate over telecommunications regulation.
“The issue is that there are clearly lots of people who have just got an opinion based on personal experience or personal predilection… There’s not really the methodology or space in this for reasoned debate,” said Hayvatt.

A couple of things here. Simply, build your community first. In this case, Telstra is allowing everyone to let off steam. As a marketing exercise its the right thing to do. Later, most online communities look for Leaders or HyperUsers or whatever you want to call them – after a while, Telstra will find a few of these “stars” in their forums, and promote them to moderators or community leaders. Further along the track, if they are smart, they will invite them into industry discussions; most large successful online communities have these gurus that are respected (or at least, well known!), knowledgeable, committed, fanatical, evangelists and use them, often unpaid, as advisors and archetypal consumers. The community feels a sense of ownership with “their” speakers as it was community debate and dialogue that gave them the evangelist their voice; and the company (Telstra), has provided a platform to create this speaker that is acceptable to the desired demographic.

Win-win.

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