[photo] Mark Jeftovic

easyDNS CEO, Career Contrarian & AntiGuru

The True Value of Social Media to a Business

The other day I discovered identi.ca, which I had always assumed was just a smaller, less popular version twitter that seemed to be favored by hardcore geeks and in particular, Canadian hardcore opensource geeks. I can’t even remember what prompted me to open up an easyDNS account there but after I did I realized that doing so had just changed the way we were going to be using social media, particularly twitter, from that moment on.

What identi.ca understands very well is if you can’t overtake a gigantic force inside your segment, the best way to deal with it is to make friends with it and have your technology play nice with it. It is the diametric opposite of “lock in”. I have said numerous times over the years that easyDNS was created out of a desire to drive a stake through the heart of “lock-in” in all it’s forms. (We did something similar with our easyRoute53 GUI and nameserver integration when Amazon announced Route 53 DNS).

Hope I don't accidently type anything intended for my under-age mistress into THIS chat windowIdenti.ca does this by providing seamless integration into twitter by being able to link your account to twitter (of course, twitter is also designed to allow this to happen). What makes the “shift” for me is that identi.ca has a just-as-easy mechanism to update your status via jabber. What all this means is that I / we / easyDNS can now update our status/timelines on identi.ca and twitter via xmpp; and since we already use xmpp extensively this is really easy for me and for us. It changes the way we can update and push system statuses out through our timeline.

Which is all very interesting, but as I was explaining this to somebody the conversation morphed into what the true value of social media is, and ironically enough….

What Makes Social Media Valuable To a Business….

…is not what a company puts out through it’s social media channels. It isn’t a “marketing channel” per se. Too many businesses think it is. I wish I saved the link to a tweet I saw the other day, but it lamented that there were not enough companies on twitter putting out actual conversation or signal, that most businesses are tweeting nothing but “micro press releases”.

“Best Coupon code for a discount on XYZ”

“ISO 970003 magazine votes us best XaaS platform in the cloud for the 17th year running!”

When people see these tweets their eyes glaze over. Nobody gives a fsck (I’m a nobody and I don’t give a fsck so I know). What’s worse, if this is the only kind of message that your organization emits, you run the risk that people will become anesthetized to anything you do say.

Social Media are Your Organization’s Antennae

The true value of social media are to extend your organization’s eyes and ears into the world. It’s to pickup and detect any chatter about the business. It’s not there to disseminate inane pitches from your business.

Via social media you hear the cry of a customer stuck after hours going into a long weekend and you can swoop in to the rescue before those agonizing (and possibly relationship ending) 72 hours tick by.

Via social media you find out that some feature you put in to your product as an afterthought is the one thing that is getting everybody who uses your service absolutely stoked about it.

Via social media you find out when the New York Times or even worse (Gawker)  is confusing you with one of your competitors.

“Always Invert”

When your competition is using this medium to bore your potential customers to death with undifferentiated, homogeneous marketing sludge, an agile company can instead use it to gain something valuable: direct insight into the mindset and experiences of people who you’ve already connected with and feedback on how that is going. This gives you the ability to adjust, support, correct and educate.

And that’s what will get your name out there in a compelling and useful way.




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