Monday, September 21, 2009

Social media cuts both ways

This is a post written after reading this post, from FreshNetworks, related with the impact of social media in a company's branding.

Social Media cuts both ways.

1.- Writters has to be aware of the impact of the information they publish.

Most of the regular social media users has no previous experience in marketing or regular media, obviously, so they have no real sense on how powerful published information (so these tools) can be and the harm they can make to a person or a company without even noticing it. We are seeing this in young kids at school. It is so easy to upload a unproper picture, to publish an unfair comment about somebody, destroy a company's reputation ...

Social media tools are used by everybody but not everybody know how to use them. Reacting against wrong behaviours related with their use is not just the Govs responsability. It is also ours.

2.- Companies have to take social networks as a really powerful marketing and feedback tool.

Social media are not just a new channel to make money out of. They also are a good tool for users to show your services weak points, you fealures, etc. So prepare your company (and yourself) to react to users opinions as they deserve. And also take in consideration that they have the ability now to harm you with a little cost you if you ignore them..or even if you don't.

3.- We need to adapt the law to this new reality

Social media are a new way of communicating so countries need to adapt the law to this new reality (without cutting down our rights). And since social media know very little about boundaries, Govs should make an effort to unify as much as possible its criteria related to the the protection of our rights.

Some questions come to my mind:
  • How do we convince a company that risks related with the use of social media do not cancel all the great opportunities related to them?
  • Do we have to?
  • What should a company ( a person or a community) do when its reputation is in danger through twitter, facebook, etc.?
  • How to react when somebody's opinion is unffair?
  • And what about when you agree on somebody's complains, you want to repair the error but the complains published in a social network has already a huge impact, so the cost of that misbehavior is insignificant compared to the harm done by the customer/blogger/user?
  • What if the social media user is not even your customer and have no real idea about your service?

More and more companies are getting concerned about the impact of social media for their reputation. Many of them may become afraid to use them if they are not "more controlled", so they will try to.

And we know well that fear is freedom's major enemy.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Social networks... a new challenge and a new risk for software libre projects

More and more people is now using KDE 4, and specially non technical people. Since KDE4 is improving fast but do not have yet all the features and apps that KDE 3.5 did, it is easy to think that old KDE users will have many requests or questions the following monthes. Since the usability of KDE4 is new in many ways, there will be many users also asking for help.

I have a feeling that lately more and more people is complaining/making questions in about features or non key points that they miss, don't like or, simply don't work as they expected.

The commitment of every KDE developer to answer as many questions or comments as they can is out of doubt, but this question-answer approach do not scale, since these tools do not work as chats, forums or mailing lists (the major tools we have used in the past for support purposes). They do not have a single entrance from where to route them to the right information or person. They need a new language, different procedures, different interfaces, different tools (social desktops ;) )....

I'm not sure the policies we had in the past for supporting users are going to be as efficient as they were. Probably a different strategy to handle all these requests and complains is needed for these social tools. From my point of view is becomming something to be worry about since the impact of so many people making requests or complaining about different issues are becomming significant and it can turn into relevant.

Software libre projects have a nice chance to change the way they interact with users. Social networks force people to become concise. We can use that. But they are also great tools for expressing feelings worldwide... and that is a huge risk if they get frustrated with our software.

How do we route requests and complains through social network tools? How do we track and proccess what they want, what they need? How do we make ourselves visible so they know where/who to ask? How are we going to coordinate efforts through these tools? How do we adapt other tools we use (wiki, bug tracker, mailing lists, chat) to this new scenario? How do we include social network tools into our support and maintenance strategy? Or their impact will be so big that those classic strategies won't work anymore?

Maybe we have to assume some risks and, once more, innovate....maybe this is nothing to worry about...