Gabe Newell's advice in 2013 still rings true: 'Nobody is smarter than the internet'

  • In 2013, Valve CEO Gabe Newell offered some sage advice to businesses on how to handle feedback from online communities.
  • He explained that it’s impossible to win against the internet, so it’s best not to fight it.

These days, almost every company you can think of has an online presence. But not every company likes being online – some don’t like communicating with fans or customers, or taking their feedback or suggestions.

But ignoring the internet faithful would be a big mistake, according to Valve CEO Gabe Newell.

Back in January 2013, the 55-year-old president and co-founder of Valve, which runs the world’s most popular online store for distributing PC games, went on The Nerdist podcast to dish about the video game industry. But his advice about interacting with fans and communities on the internet rings true for almost every business across all industries (as paraphrased by Mr_Pickle on Reddit):

You have to stop thinking that you’re in charge and start thinking that you’re having a dance. We used to think we’re smart […] but nobody is smarter than the internet. […] One of the things we learned pretty early on is ‘Don’t ever, ever try to lie to the internet – because they will catch you. They will de-construct your spin. They will remember everything you ever say for eternity.’

You can see really old school companies really struggle with that. They think they can still be in control of the message. […] So yeah, the internet (in aggregate) is scary smart. The sooner people accept that and start to trust that that’s the case, the better they’re gonna be in interacting with them.

Newell knows the power of the internet all too well. In 2015, he and his company Valve were on the receiving end of the internet’s backlash when his company teamed up with Bethesda, maker of the popular game “Skyrim,” ended a joint venture after just four days because of strong consumer backlash.

So, if you’re operating a company or its social media presence in 2017, here’s some advice: Don’t ever try to fight the internet. You won’t win.

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