Plenty of folks will be pleased to see Telstra’s Phil Burgess leave our shores. But among the more relieved will be Australia’s Web 2.0 community.

The relief will come because Burgess made it bloody hard to run the line that blogs are good for business. Burgess famously founded Telstra’s blog, Now We Are Talking, (NWAT) when he learned it cost $1 million to send a direct mail shot to the company’s shareholders. $1 million buys an awful lot of website, and NWAT was born.

The site has since become an organ notable for the amount of bile, corporate propaganda and thinly-veiled attacks on anyone who Telstra think deserves a smear.

That’s a long way from the happy clappy social media vision of online corporate engagement that sees companies and their customers engage in civil conversation that creates a virtuous circle of deeper engagement and happy profits, as customers feel the Apple-style love for a company that taps into their emotional needs by being seen to include them in their deepest thinking.

To be fair, NWAT has engaged a large number of people, nearly all of them Telstra supporters, who wallow in Burgess-fuelled rage about how unfair it is when an agency charged with making sure the market remains as undistorted as possible actually does its job instead of giving one player everything it wants.

But the tone of the site, the strident and often hysterical nature of its content and the talkback-style brutal, insulting dismissal of counter argument combine to make it very hard to take seriously, as Crikey contributor Trevor Cook nailed in an ABC Unleashed piece where he said:

When they do blog, organisations, like Telstra, often find it extraordinarily difficult to see their social media efforts as anything more than just another way to get out messages and push products.

NWAT’s crassness therefore leaves the Australian corporate blogosphere with a bully boy as poster child, and social media evangelists grasping at straws as they try to find examples of how the Web 2.0 revolution has made a positive impact for an Australian organisation of note.

They often find it hard to cite examples of how Web 2.0 has made positive impact for an organisation of note, full stop. But that’s a story for another day.

Peter Fray

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