Posts Tagged ‘Social web’

A more powerful and precise firehose

June 29, 2009

fire_hoseIt’s no secret that we are overloaded with information. Social platforms like Twitter and Facebook (especially with the new Facebook “wanna-be Twitter” home screen) remind me of a fire-hose. A very powerful fire-hose passing a whole lot of water each and every minute. Sometimes I think that I could literally watch my social streams 24 hours and not do anything else – that’s how much is out there. Obviously, no one does that. You tune into what’s relevant, and tune out the “noise”. Twitter search tools (web search, as well as search tools on Twitter clients) allow to extract necessary information, and not just from your own “network”, but from the entire Twitterverse. However, search and organization tools are still rudimentary. If I was an account manager handling AT&T in New York City, I would like to see AT&T mentions only in NYC. Right now, there is advanced search on search.twitter.com, but not via Twitter clients. What about people I follow? I may have a good reason to follow someone, but not want to read their every tweet. How do I find what’s relevant? I think fine-tuning search and contextualizing tweets is the natural next step. For example, if I follow John Smith, I only want to see John’s tweets about social media, and not about the food he ate today. As more and more people get on Twitter, we will follow more and more people, and will need a better fire-hose to extract valuable tidbits. Or risk losing a ton of valuable information.

friendfeed logoAre there tools now that attempt to do that? I think Friendfeed is positioned to do that. Friendfeed helps you aggregate your social media activity, to be tracked by your subscribers. Conversely, you can subscribed to others’ aggregated feeds. On the surface, Friendfeed is an even bigger fire-hose, if it aggregates Twitter and other tools (Twitter alone is enough). This is why I haven’t been an avid Friendfeed user – I simply do not want more stuff, I want better and more relevant stuff. However, if Friendfeed does it right, it will intelligently learn users I follow (based on their aggregate streams), at the same time as learning about me, and automatically curate what I see. For example, Friendfeed would know that I am interested in wine tasting, based on my tweets, videos and blogposts. Then it would extract relevant material from the streams of the people I follow and add it to my “Best of Day” section. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a tool like Friendfeed would also observe my activity outside of the social networks (with my permission, of course) – based on my Google searches, Twitter searches, etc? I think so! And I think this is where the social web will be heading next: a socially semantic web.

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In Twitter We Trust

March 24, 2009

I had been thinking about trust over the past couple of weeks, for a variety of reasons. Naturally, my mind started to wander towards social media and online interactions, and how they relate to issues of trust.  Perhaps this is a topic that can not, and should not, be tackled in one brief blogpost. But I would like to start with an observation of the underlying culture of Twitter and Twitterers. Across the board, the Twitterers who have amassed a significant number of followers and social capital, share a similar attitude towards “sharing and caring”.  They have been generous with their insight and advice to other Twitterers, and in turn have let us all into their worlds. They don’t tweet simply about their business, but also about their personal lives, dreams and worldviews – from the mundane to the phillosophical. (Unfortunately there is such a thing as oversharing at the far end of the spectrum, and yours truly is definitely guilty of that :).  At the end of the day, their “humanness” jumps off the screen, as they are trusting the larger Twitter community with their insights, thoughts, dreams, problems, trials and tribulations – in professional and personal lives. They are putting it (almost) all out there, to start conversations, be part of the conversation, and form meaningful connections.

This is a very cultural thing. The Twitter / web entrepreur / social media community is very much like that, and it seems to be the norm rather than an exception. As a very tightly knit community, we normalize this behavior and sometimes forget that not the entire world is like that, and other communities are drastically different. This culture of “sharing and caring” is a total antithesis to the real estate community, for example. Before I started to revolve in social media / tiwtterati circles, I spent time in the real estate investor community. My personal path evolved in quite a curious way: from a real estate investor to a real estate entrepreneur (I saw just way too many problems that weren’t being solved), to a web entrepreneur and admirer of all things social, web and Twitter.  The real estate investor community is as opposite from the social web community as can be. Not only aren’t people forthcoming with information and tips on how to be successful, you can’t even beat it out of them, if you wanted to (of course, I don’t condone any beatings of any sort). Every time that I asked fellow seasoned investors for their advice on how they became successful, and what steps I should take, their response was, without fail: “take this class, I took it and paid for it, and so should you.” It is a cutthroat, scammy community, who is anything but collegiate, with most people out to make a quick buck, and then move on to a new scam, ahem, class. It’s no wonder that no one trusts anyone, everyone guards his / her secrets and constantly looks over his / her shoulder. It is my hunch, based on years of observation and practice, that they would be so much more successful collaborating with each other than spending energy on shutting each other out.

The real estate investor culture is a significant reason of why I have started to disassociate myself from the investor circle and have started to embrace this web technology circle more closely. This happened because the “Twitter” type of attitude and spirit is much closer to my own personality and worldview, and I am just much happier here. I am very open, trusting, and don’t mind sharing my life and living it in the open (within reason of course – still plenty of personal stuff that I won’t share on Twitter or any other platform). I hold the belief that if we all work together, we can achieve a whole lot more than if we all dispersed to our corners and tapped away on our laptops alone.

Thinking about my journey brought me to this next realization: your social media personality is really just an overemphasized extension of your IRL (in real life) personality. If you are an authentic person who enjoys sharing helping, believes in Twitter Karma, believes in “paying it forward”, then Twitter and other such tools are for you. But if you like to keep all your cards close to your chest, and people at an arm’s length, then your success on Twitter will be limited. You will certainly be able to use it as a platform to communicate very sterile pieces of information (devoid of any “humannes”) in a broadcast fashion. But will anyone really care? Probably not. Unless you take the time to get to know others, interact with them, help others and share yourself. And all of this can only happen when you trust. When you trust your followers to not judge you, to not slander you, to not ridicule your “humanness”. And you have to trust that they trust you back, trust you enough to share themselves and help you. After all, you have to trust to be trusted. So take a plunge. This is a new era of openness, transparency and humanness (even our government is working on being more transparent – now that is something that I never thought I would live to see).

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Customer Service is Dead. Long Live Customer Service!

November 20, 2008

An unsavory customer experience today has prompted me to think of customer service. Here is what happened. I am totally swamped, and didn’t have time to run down to the neighborhood deli to grab a sandwich or to cook my own lunch. So I opted for a delivery of a salad from a nearby restaurant. As a co-founder of HomeShopr, I tend to frown upon takeout, but desperate times call for desperate measures (i.e. too busy and no time for grocery store right now). At least the salad is a healthy option; I get steamed calamari, not fried. I call over there, only to find out that my salad option is not available, as they didn’t order enough calamari. They did offer me fried calalmari instead (yuck!). I inquired about alternative steamed / grilled seafoods, and they told me that the shrimp salad was an option, but it cost $2 more. I asked to speak to the manager, explaining to him that I would like to have the shrimp salad for the price of the calamari salad. The manager wouldn’t budge. I explained that I really want the calamari, and not the shrimp, but I would settle for shrimp, if it was the same price (it certainly is not my fault that I can’t get my preferred choice). He said no again. I reminded him politely that I had been ordering from there for months (I don’t order all the time, once a week maybe, and it’s the only takeout I really order). I also asked him if he thought it was worth it to potentially lose a loyal client over $2. To which he quickly retorted, in a very rude tone: “I don’t care. I have enough business.” After which, I told him that he lost a customer for life, and he told me to go F myself.  He could still reject my plea, but his tone and cursewords were completely uncalled for.

Hmmm!!! He gets more than enough business? Really? If and when this recession gets deeper, I wonder if he would sing the same tune. If another joint with excellent salads opened up in his neighborhood, taking all of his clients, would he sing the same tune still? Does he realize the power of word of mouth, and especially negative word of mouth? He probably doesn’t know that I can quickly ruin his reputation via virality of Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, blogging, etc. Personally, I am not going to stoop to his level and slander his establishment. I am sure another slighted consumer will do that. The point I do want to amplify is that in this day and age of social media, word of mouth can spread like wildfire (just look at what happened with the Motrin ads). The social web is making everything so transparent, and as more and more people go to the web as a resource (especially listening to other users’ feedback), companies can no longer take the lackadaisical approach to managing their reputation. Even though this restaurant is an old-fashioned establishment, and I really doubt that the manager uses too many social tools, and thus not managing the restaurant’s reputation proactively, he should at least be aware of the damage that negative word of mouth / bad will can bring.

Before, bad word of mouth could spread through the neighborhood. Today, bad (and good) word of mouth can spread virally through the whole world in a matter of minutes. If you don’t know what your users are saying about you, please make it your business to find out. And even better, take steps to proactively change it for the better. Reach out to your most local haters and try to make them whole. Most likely, they will stop bashing you. Above all, listen and be authentic in your response. Problem-solve and reach out. Most likely, your haters are just hurt and need to know you care. In this age of social media and rapid communication, every company needs to be a service company. No matter what you produce.

For great examples of companies that do this extremely well, check out Zappos. Even though they sell shoes, they consider themselves a service company. Internally, they say: “We are a service company that happens to sell ________” Service is so deeply part of their culture that their social media approach reflects those values. The channels of communication with customers via Twitter is wide open (click here for all Zappos-related conversations, or chat with the CEO directly here).

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