Reading “naked conversations”… Part II

Chapter One:

Laying the foundation – a historical time-line if you will to put into perspective where the social media world was when this book came out.
– MySpace hit the ground running in August 2003
– Facebook was founded in February of 2004
– Twitter started as a side project in March of 2006
“naked conversations” was published in 2006

You’re probably wondering what the above list has to do with a book about blogging. Well now that it is 2009 it’s easy to look back and see what impact the blogging world has had on the Social Media scene. Although Scoble and Israel do not mention any of the above in the book (so far) it is obvious that these apps/websites etc. parallel the blog structure. The ability to collect one’s thoughts and post them for others to read and comment on.

MySpace which is geared more towards individual users where they can post bulletins, comments and set ones mood, and so on. The music area of the site is more specifically geared towards bands where they can post their tour schedule, latest recordings and videos etc.. MySpace is not for commercial use unless “…specifically endorsed or authorized by MySpace.” – quote from MySpace Terms & Conditions. MySpace therefore as a business tool is limited in its ability to converse with a customer base.

Facebook is similar to MySpace but here businesses can build a facebook wall and use it to connect with current and potential customers. The business can post messages and have comments threaded to that message like a blog. The posts are organized in journal fashion and not conducive to long explanatory entries. Facebook can be a valuable SM tool to build recognition and brand but has a limited reach for lasting conversations. There is no indexing, archiving or categorizing ability to manage the entries and comments.

I am getting to a point here so hold on…

Twitter as evidenced by it’s founding date of 2006 was either just breaking onto the Social Media scene or had yet to be launched when this book was published. As such it has no mention (at least not that I’ve read so far) in the book. Twitter is what I would call a “global everyone can see your tweets Instant Messaging app”. Where AOL’s AIM allows you to talk one on one with a friend or a small group it does not publish your content to the masses. Twitter gives a business the opportunity to listen to conversations about its brand and be responsive with valuable information to concerns, questions and comments. A business can build trust and establish itself as a knowledgeable leader in its industry and it’s tweets though archived are again not easily searchable or organized in a conversational format.

Ahhhh… now to why I’ve been rambling about Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

The first chapter in “naked conversations” talks almost wholly about Microsoft and it’s reputation as perceived by the world back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. This is a good starting point for the book as I feel it lays the foundation for whats to come in subsequent chapters.

Microsoft was known in most tech and customer circles as the “Evil Empire”. With such a stigma attached to the company name something had to be changed. “naked conversations” is as its tag line states “how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers”.

Prior to blogs customers had tech/customer support phone lines which took forever to connect up with a human and most likely cost money to do so, forums, bulletin boards, computer clubs, parties, the water-cooler, and other social events. Not exactly open to a fluid conversation for the masses.

Blogs although they were around since 1994 early adopters like Justin Hall were using them more for electronic versions of a diary or journal. It wasn’t until around 2002 when blogs began to reflect the news of the day with comments on politics, current events and breaking headlines – the world began to take notice. 2004 and 2005 saw the blog become widely accepted as a news channel, a tool to be used to shape and query public opinion.

During this time Microsofts’ Joshua Allen started his blog Better Living Through Software. He wanted to talk to customers – let them know that someone was listening and willing to then do something about it. This was the change that Microsoft needed. A means by which everyday people could read about Microsoft from an insiders point of view. Sentiments began to shift – more employees began to blog – a larger number of tech based leaders began to take notice and report on these blog entries. Customers were now engaged in the conversation. They participated in the companies changing perception. No longer were the employees of Microsoft just another nameless body in a cubicle they were human and they were approachable.

All this did not happen overnight or without worries and fears from the corporate execs, PR and legal departments. For Microsoft it took about five years for things to start turning around. As I have found mentioned in the many blog posts and tweets that I’ve read – the conversation is already taking place with or without you so why not join in and listen to what’s being said. This gives you the opportunity to address concerns and push for a change in your company. As these changes are made post them to your blog and give credit to your customers for sharing their needs as the impetus for the change. Not all comments are going to be negative either – if you’re doing something right and people are talking about it let them know you are listening and thank them for the pat on the back.

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and hundreds of more apps and web sites have been categorized as Social Media tools prior to and subsequently since this book was published in 2006. The hype and chatter surrounding Social Media is everywhere and as people begin to use these tools more and more in their daily lives the spillage into the corporate arena is inevitable. Companies need to prop up these early adopters and provide them with tools so they can become the companies ears and voice in these new Social Media worlds. Blogs can be the glue that holds all these conversations together. Twitter can be the introduction into the conversation pointing people to your blog for the meat of the discussion. Facebook can be the electronic version of highway billboards – providing snippets of valuable information for your customers to take away and use while again pointing them to your blog for more details and in-depth content.

As an SM newbie I will be learning more about Social Media myself and will chronicle my trials and errors here for others to review and hopefully learn from my mistakes. With so many new people entering into SM I know I will not be alone in my travels.

My takeaway from chapter one is this: “You can’t begin to know what people are saying about your company if you are not part of the conversation. Don’t wait – join in now!”

– Peace

Reading “naked conversations”… Part I