Everywhere I look, people are so scared of "loosing control" of the online conversation that they're actually refusing to participate in it. It's the online equivalent of saying "no comment" during a crisis, which simply means the only voices that are heard are those of your critics.
A year ago, I discussed blogging with a local lobby group. I did this as a local resident rather than as a representative of Hill & Knowlton, which is why I am using this story to make my point. Before you know it, the discussion turned to big bad property developers. What if they left pro-development comments on our blog? What if they pretended to be local residents when they did so? In short: what if we can't control the conversation?
The project never went ahead. Because of their fear of losing control of a conversation that they never controlled anyway, they actually decided not to participate in the conversation. Of course there would have been dissenting voices on their blog had they chosen to start one. It's even possible that some of these comments would have been from "developers in disguise", though it's far more likely that critical comments would have come from local residents such as myself who share their passion for local issues but disagree with some of their views. Either way, by encouraging and participating in the debate, they would have actually engaged with their audiences, which is a lightyear ahead of being silent.
As we usually explain to clients during a crisis, saying "no comment" is the only way of guaranteeing that you will not be heard. It's the same on the internet. You simply can't control the online conversation, so you have nothing to lose except the opportunity to be heard.