I think many companies will want to build their own social networks in order to moderate, control, dictate , and ultimately impact the branding message in favor of the organization. When you decide to host a dinner party, your guests are typically going to eat some of what you have decided to serve. It's like that when a company builds their own social network. PR and Marketing end up being in full play.
Should they doe this? Absolutely. NING, Linkedin, and even A SMALL WORLD allow for this type of action. However, as much as a company may try ..it is truly difficult to exist in a bubble and the newer platforms ,i.e. Twitter seem to make it less likely as people choose to lend their ears or not.
Who doesn't want the data and qualitative feedback of the consumers that manifest the cult at their disposal?.
Companies dependent on wide scale and diverse consumer demographics should also join the social networks facebook and Myspace.com(including any blogs,groups and pages within them) that are indicative of their brand supporters or haters for that matter.
There is the conversation we create and then ...there is the conversations we listen to by stepping in the room. Both are of great importance in selling what is on offer and extending the long term value of the brand. That said presence of a company in the social networks should always be strategic and tie back to brand perception and it's impact on revenue and consumer value.
Adrienne Wallace Hayward
Fairfield Media Consultancy