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Friday, February 26, 2010

76 cm of Blogospheric pressure...

or, why IT organizations should flip the way they see and use blogs.

For some time now, organizations doing business in today's social, connected world have  realized how badly they can be hit by customer feedback coming from the blogosphere -- primarily because:
  • Blogs are personal & offer customer perspectives --- not in the form of fancy graphs from a survey or that thick 90-page 12-category customer requirement study -- but in the form of real, human stories that people can relate to.
  • Blogs are intensely viral -- news spreads like wildfire, is picked up by search engines, aggregators like digg or, and even
  • Blogs generate tribes (also read Tribes) -- impacted customers have a quick and easy rallying point to make their voice heard.
IT organizations are also reeling under the impact, despite a more limited customer base. IT system failures causing business impacts tend to happen -- and yet, news now spreads instantly, and can cause immense long-term damage to the online reputation of IT organizations or the parent organization they serve. A recent incident in Microsoft related to a system failure elicited questioning on whether adequate testing had been done for the system under question (which was being upgraded), and why customers were not informed/ constantly kept apprised of remediation steps.

Interestingly, during the same incident, an active Twitter channel which had IT technicians interacting with customers who faced problems. Customers noticed -- and went there to get key information, or to get their problems resolved.

I wonder if there's a way for IT organizations to re-examine their communication channels and open up to the use of Social Media as an integral part of their customer interactions. Two key problem areas here could be (also read Why companies are scared of Social Media) lack of resources, and concerns around brand management and opening up to negative publicity. However, flipping the coin, here is the opportunity:
  • If used right, blogs can be a fantastic way to validate your requirements, and keep your customers informed of progress. Including a customer in the process of building your solution makes him more invested, and builds deeper understanding.
  • In case of fire, a blog might be a good "break glass" action. Customers will tend to rally, but now around your blog. The company now owns the channel of communication, and can adress miscommunication quickly.
  • No time? Automate montoring systems to blog automatically or try microblogging.
The biggest positive is that customers feel connected and not isolated, and this can perhaps solve half the PR problems an incident would be likely to cause.

What do you think?

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