I admit it. I’m that guy. I take pictures of great meals when they are really well presented or exotic or the bacon is spectacularly marbled. It goes up on Facebook more for my benefit than anyone else’s, but…there it is.
Social media has taken a dramatic turn for “real” and “professional” use, so I was a bit surprised to witness some folks at vmWorld that still cling to that old trope of “I don’t use Twitter because I don’t care what you had for lunch.” Granted, if that is the type of content that is consistently spewing from an account, I will unfollow them quickly. But Twitter is fast becoming a very efficient way for businesses to directly communicate with their customers, partners or just interested followers.
One of the great events at the conference this year was the Unofficial Official vmWorld Community Tweetup and #vFlipCup Tourney. It was an event driven by Twitter that brought together many of the industry leaders in storage solutions for some friendly competition. It sounds silly, because of the nature of the competition, but in fact, it was a great way to knock down some barriers and gather people who have a lot in common but are often separated by the competitive nature of our industry.
As the evening progressed, there was a Big Board monitor that had a running Twitter stream displaying comments from attendees. While the content for this particular evening was not earth shattering, it got people talking and was a great example of how Twitter can be used to build relationships. Personally, I know that I will be keeping in contact with many people I met that night, some of whom I know by their Twitter handles more than their names.
However, it was not just the fun after-hours events where social media was making an impact. In the Hang Space there was a huge Jumbotron style board running Twitter feeds including the pictures posted by attendees. Some were silly, some were just shoutouts, but there was a lot of great content as well. Attendees were offering opinions, setting meetings and exchanging ideas. This board was a great way to learn about other attendees and arm oneself with information before making the first contact.
These types of events can happen every day with strong social media strategy. Whether we want them to or not, our users are going to put their thoughts out there in the social media universe. Rants, raves, technical questions…it will all be out there for everyone to see. The smart play is to plug into this data stream and use it to our advantage. Just a few negative posts can quickly cascade into full-scale mobs with vPitchforks storming your business’s castle. However, a quick reply coupled with aggressive action to address the issues raised can turn those detractors into promoters. Further, that action is now part of the internet archive and is something that other users with similar issues will be able to see.
The flip side of that coin is the promoter. Fans can be hard to find because people seem to be less likely to tell the world things are going well than they are to tell the world how much they hate something. But by keeping a close eye on the social media universe, the clever companies can become part of a community of users. As this community grows, it becomes self-aware and self-policing. It becomes harder for the detractors to gain a foothold because the promoters are there to react and reply to the negative posts. Additionally, the detractor will witness that he or she is not alone with their issues, and their colleagues have found ways to fix the problems and improve their situations.
This week, Twitter helped introduce me to Backup Exec users and partners that I would not have otherwise known existed. It is now up to me to follow up and extend our relationship beyond 140 characters per message, but the ground was laid via this mechanism. Social media is a lot more than pictures of great sushi and Hollywood starlets offering their latest OMG philosophies. It is a way to plug directly into the zeitgeist of a community. Come join the zeitgeist with me. You can find me at @PackMatt73