(This is reposted by Eric Dafforn of SEO Speedwagon)
Here’s a quick case study in how social media sites (more important, the conversations going on at social media sites) are enabling companies to interact with and respond to their users.
Here’s the rough chronology. I may have missed some letters in the middle, but points A and Z are pretty accurate.
- Melissa Chang runs a blog on her own domain, using the Tumblr platform. (For the uninitiated, Tumblr is roughly similar to Blogger or Wordpress, although many people seem to use “Tumblogs” as a middle ground between article-length posts and Twitter-like microblog posts.) She is unhappy with her search traffic and writes a post saying so.
- Steve Rubel reads the post and bookmarks it at Del.icio.us.
- Steve’s bookmark shows up at FriendFeed, where he aggregates his various social media endeavors.
- A conversation begins at FriendFeed about whether, and to what extent, the Tumblr platform is or is not search-friendly. A somewhat lively and mostly constructive discussion takes place.
- Others lend various perspectives at their own blogs.
- Tumblr reps follow — and join — the FriendFeed conversation(s).
- Tumblr responds on its official blog, saying it has already made many of the changes that came from the discussion on FriendFeed and elsewhere.
- Many are happy with the changes; some are not. My personal opinion is that Tumblr may have entered the egg-breaking stage of omelet-making. The site will be better off in the long run.
So a logical question is, how is a “conversation” like the one at FriendFeed different from Tumblr users merely writing to the Tumblr staff and making the same recommendations — which some users claim they’ve been doing for a while? I don’t know the answer to that. But I think the interest in and productivity resulting from the FriendFeed conversation had a lot to do with it.
Back in the day, big brands used to respond to customer letters. I mean respond. Like type up a reply and send it. This is because they realized that for each person who took the time to write or type a letter, stamp it, and walk it down to the mailbox (later known as the “barrier to entry”), there must be about 10,000 people who feel exactly the same way.
Today, you can send an email as easily as you can cook a Hot Pocket. Anyone can do it. So the 10,000:1 ratio or yore is more like 1:1 today. The FriendFeed conversation shows that not only is more than one person affected, but that actual recommendations can be spat out the back end. I think that’s why the response was more rapid.
Very soon, this will be the norm in customer relations, at least for progressive, consumer-focused companies.