People are talking … are you listening?

I often hear people talk about not “getting” some aspect of social media, or worse, talking about it like it’s a waste of time, an indulgence, or even a joke.  The other day I was struck by how much the rules have changed in terms of communication, and why if you aren’t listening, you’re losing opportunity.

Early this month, I ran in a charity road race along with some family members.  I wrote up the experience on my personal blog, and as in any writeup, I included both positive and negative aspects of the day.  My intended audience was small — this particular blog is not publicized.

In this particular case, though, a couple hours after my post went up, the director of the race had found it, read it, and posted a follow up.  She directly addressed my concerns and invited me to discuss it in more detail via email.  We did, and then I posted a final comment explaining how things had progressed.

What happened here?

  • Within 12 hours of the race, I had written a report and posted it in a public place.
  • Within 12 hours of that, the race director had found my post and directly engaged me.
  • Within 12 hours of that, a two-way conversation had taken place and I had posted the results.

Within 36 hours of the event, one participant out of 4,000 had a personal conversation with the person directly responsible for the event about what went well and what didn’t. Do you think perhaps the race director had urgent matters to attend to, and that it might have been hard to find the time to scour the web for mentions of her race?  Probably.  Clearly this was a priority.

I’m a customer for life now, but honestly one participant more or less out of their race is not a huge deal.  What is huge is that the situation played out in a public place and for years to come the evidence of that interaction is preserved for every potential participant in the event.

Not only that, I went from being a participant to an advocate.  I’ve spent my personal time talking to others about how great an event it was, and how much the organizers obviously care about the race and the runners in it.  You can be sure when the race is run next year, I won’t just be signing up, I’ll be talking about it in public and drumming up more interest on their behalf.

I can’t beat this drum long enough.  You cannot measure the Return on Investment in social media using traditional means.  But it should be clear to anyone watching these kinds of events unfold that the Risk of Ignoring is huge.  Retell this story, but replace the race with a product launch, and my report with a simple installation report written by a low-level employee at a small customer.  And remember, in the professional world, we’re not talking about how good the end result feels for everyone involved, but about how you can differentiate the experience of working with your product as compared to your competitors’.

Are you listening?  Do the people who are listening have the knowledge and power to engage your customers?  Can they escalate and get the right people in conversation in Internet Time?  Can you picture a situation where the person directly responsible for your setting the direction of your product is in contact with a single customer within 36 hours of that customer unboxing it?

1 comment so far ↓

#1 ianhf on 12.15.09 at 9:38 am


Fully agree with this – I had a similar thing happen at SNW Frankfurt where I posted a twitter comment and had immediate feedback email from the conference director (see here

The last 2 paragraphs of your blog are key and critical for any company IMHO – and also relate heavily to their RFE processes and accessibility.

Mngt, active listening & action can be the difference between a customer and an evangelical loyal customer.

Good stuff 🙂