Google just introduced SideWiki, which allows anyone to add information in a sidebar next to any Web page. Google positions SideWiki as a way to contribute helpful information to any site, providing additional insights to what’s on the page. Nice. They even show a nice example with John Maeda, president of RISD, adding a comment about Cooper-Hewitt.
For corporate people who have had to fight with legal and senior management to get a corporate blog or to allow people to post comments on the corporate blog, this is big news. I started saying “there is no control” of corporate information back in 2005. And now, really, there is no control.
If people don’t agree with the company’s information, they get write their views in Google Sidewiki, which appears as a browser sidebar. If they think your marketing claims are misleading, they can write that in Sidewiki. If they think a competitor’s product alternative is a better choice, up it goes. (Or should I say “side it goes” as the Google Sidewiki opens to the left side of the Web page.)
While the product was just launched , I think there are five things marketers and corporate communications people need to pay attention to:
1. Claim your Google Sidewiki for your Web site; that way your company information will always appear at the top of the wiki. Bill Hartzer has a good tutorial on how to do this.
2. Give management the heads up about Sidewiki before you’re called on the carpet for not knowing about “this.” Reassure people that there are unlikely to be a lot of bad comments, unless of course there is a reason for them. People can only add to Sidewiki if they use their full name. As bloggers have found, simply asking people for their name and a legitimate email filters out most ranters and haters.
3. Respond to people who comment in the Sidewiki, just as you would — I hope — if they commented on your company blog, forum or community. Engaging in the right way can build brand fans, correct misperceptions, and help you learn how to make your company better.
4. No corporate blog? This is the time to get one. If you have no way to easily and quickly communicate your company views via social media, you’re at risk. SideWiki is another example of making it easy for people to have a voice. They’d probably be interested in hearing from people in your company in their real person voices, too. So what are you waiting for? Make it easy for people in your company to share their views.
5. Follow the trend and follow what people write — not just on your pages, but on your competitors’, on industry sites, on blogs and online magazine pages covering your industry. SideWiki could provide some incredible intelligence for sales, marketing, customer service, and product innovation.
Here’s a video with more information. You can also follow @googlesidewiki on Twitter to see track adoption and issues. It’s too soon to tell how influential Google Sidewiki might become, but it’s not too soon to start paying attention.