I offered my two cents in a debate about influence and control between Mike Driehorst and Geoff Livingston. Entering these types of religious debates is always interesting, because one's contribution or position can be so easily misconstrued. However, I think it is important to try to start questioning what the words we use mean, because I think there are some serious miscommunication happening because we aren't clear in how we define words. What is influence? What is control? I tried to parse this a bit in a comment to Mike's post. After reading other comments and Geoff's post, I thought it would be useful to offer what I think about control.
I think the context of all of this debate is this: What does a company actually CONTROL? Is is the brand? The messages? Most people who are writing and blogging about social media in a corporate context believe a company does NOT control its brand or messages. I am one of them! However, there are some things that companies DO control, and Mike was trying to get to that, starting with the fact that if a company didn't exist, there would be nothing to control, so that the company at the VERY least, has control over its first existence. But what happens after that?
Let's back up for a moment. There are good reasons to conflate control and influence, because they are so intertwined. Can we really say that any decision that anyone makes has not been influenced by anyone (or anything) else, even it is is an authoritarian command? And yet, for the purposes of the arguments we are making in social media marketing, it would behoove us to try to separate the two, if only to clear up fuzzy thinking which, in my opinion, is creating arguments where there doesn't really need to be any.
Looking at the definitions of influence and control we can immediately see the problem. The definition of control, from Mirriam Webster Online: (transitive verb): to exercise restraining or directing influence over : regulate b: to have power over : rule. If we are trying to differentiate control from influence, this definition doesn't really help. Obviously in this case, you could argue the company itself cannot have singular control because clearly other audiences offer directing influence.
The noun control is equally as fuzzy: 1 a: an act or instance of controlling; also : power or authority to guide or manage. The introduction of authority is interesting, which is power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior. But again, it still conflates influence and command.
Things are a bit clearer when we look at the definition of influence. According to the dictionary it is: the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command or the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways. In my opinion, it is the indirect or intangible that separates out influence from control.
What if we defined control as the ability to make a decision about corporate actions? What then would be under a company's control? Off the top of my head, I came up with this list:
1) Whether the company exists or not
2) The ability to sign a contract (employment, partnership, real estate, financial)
3) The ability to pay a bill or salary
4) The ability to decide what products will be produced at what quantities
5) What official corporate collateral, image will look like: logo, signs, annual report, brochures, website (unless they have turned their website into a wiki, which is unlikely for the vast majority at this point)
Now, I am not saying that any of these items can't be influenced by outside parties. Of course they will be. The very definition of decision admits this (a determination arrived at after consideration). Yet only official corporate representatives can actually make the decisions that put these things into play. They can choose to ignore influence (particularly in #5), which may even result in the company failing. These people who "actually make the decisions" do indeed have control, as we have defined it.
In this case, the company does not control the brand or the messages, for example. They can only influence. And this has always ever been the case.
Let me know if you think this helps!