Looks like someone at Shell read the Cluetrain Manifesto. This article describes how Shell has opened a public forum for their customers. They do not delete posts, they don’t give non-responsive responses (well, not many at least). Any employee at Shell can respond to a statement or questions posted by anyone on the forums. Here is the conclusion of the article that sums it up very nicely:
“So here’s how it works. A company opens a forum. People post messages of every sort, from the supportive to the stupid to the righteously indignant. Employees respond in their own voices. Readers of the forum see in the answers not just words but a real sense that the employees care and that the company is confident enough in what it stands for to allow employees to say what they want. As a result, the company’s social commitment avoids sounding like every other company’s trendy mouthings. Shell’s lack of control over the forum is precisely equivalent to the depth of its real commitment. It’s that simple.”
After reading some of the messages on that board, I am very impressed that Shell has stayed behind this concept since they launched it in 1999. Many other companies would have run away screaming and shut it down long ago.