Posts about Business

White eKnight

Fred Wilson doesn’t get why eBay is looking to buy Skype. Drat. I figured he’d explain it to me because I didn’t get it either. My ignorant theory: Just as eBay was seen as a benign investor when some Craigslit equity was out there looking for a home, I wonder whether eBay with its Omidyar roots is seen as less venal than other potential acquirers of Skype. Phone companies would buy it to destroy it. eBay would understand letting the customers rule. Still, Fred’s right: I don’t see what’s in it for eBay.

Caveat conglomerate

Beware the big company that tries to venture into this, the small world owned by its individuals, without proper respect and perspective. Consider:

* Flickr natives are planning a revolt against Yahoo for consolidating identities.

* Look at the comments under my interview with CBS blogger Vaughn Ververs. I tried to warn CBS that objective blogging wouldn’t work and, sure enough, bloggers threw tomatoes.

* MySpace folks fretted at the purchase of their world by News Corp.

* Though hardly a major media conglomerate — yet — Weblogs Inc. found itself the target of a few snowballs over its contract. A company’s a company, a contract’s a contract, money’s money, that’s life, and I’m not sure there’s a thing they should have done differently. But even this is illustration that this is a newly delicate dance.

The issue is that we, the people, believe we own this space — not just blogs, not just online, but anyplace where we put our effort and trust and money. And isn’t it modern corporate nirvana to be a “we company” instead of a “they company”? But you have to mean it.

We’re all marketers

Hugh MacLeod is in love and here’s the reason, a wonderful wrap-up of “neo-marketing”:

Being heard

In various reports about my Dell fit, the point is made that this is a larger blog and I got media attention. But the truth is that (1) I didn’t get one bit of help from Dell because of the blog or any media attention but only because I found a VP’s email address and (2) it doesn’t matter how many readers you have but only if you have the right one: that is, if the person in the company you’re talking about is smart enough to care what his or her constituents are saying. Case in point [via Jay Rosen]:

What happens when smaller fries harp online? Does corporate America listen?

Most of the time, probably not, but it’s interesting to watch when a blog post actually catches a company’s attention. That occurred earlier this year, when a North Carolina blogger, Jon Lowder, made a quiet complaint about his hometown paper, the Winston-Salem Journal, and compared it, unfavorably, with a newspaper 30 miles to the east, the Greensboro News & Record.

Part of the post read, “I live in Winston-Salem. I have the Winston-Salem Journal delivered every morning. But I don’t feel like I know anyone there… I get all the N&R blogs via RSS. I don’t get their paper… yet. But I still feel closer to the N&R.”

There are a million and one wistful comments like this on the web, but somehow this one got traction. For one thing, it was quoted by NYU’s Jay Rosen, the author of the PressThink blog, a widely read site.

For another, both the Winston-Salem Journal and the Greensboro News & Record responded to Lowder’s original blog post. Indeed, the News & Record’s top editor posted a brief reply.

More remarkable still, though, was what happened at the Winston-Salem Journal. Not only did the paper respond to the post and supply contact information, but it went and created an RSS feed just days after Lowder’s original post.

Now that’s customer service.

Now read Jon Lowder himself and see how damned impressed he is that he was heard. A thousand people could have read him, a million. But if the guy who could turn the right switch was asleep at it, then it wouldn’t have mattered. But somebody smart, somebody who gave a damn heard Lowder and did something. That is how any smart company should act in this new age. You don’t wait until the volume of complaint is deafening; you don’t have to. Now you can go online and search for what people are saying and then do something about it. You don’t need a megaphone or a press or a broadcast tower. All you need is a conversation.

Customer service in reverse

In the continuing Dell discussion, Steve Rubel answers Steve Baker’s question about how companies should deal with lots of bloggers raising lots of customer service issues:

Steve, over time I think you’re going to see blog search and Web search tools integrated into CRM systems. This will give customer service the tools they need to manage individual issues that bubble on blogs. However, you are right. PR professionals will increasingly need to not only serve as an organization’s mouthpiece (one of them at least), but also its eyes and ears. The best PR pros have done this for years. Blogging just makes it easier to keep our finger on the public pulse.
This is how we operate at CooperKatz. We monitor the blogosphere for all of our clients. If we spot a customer issue, we route it to the right party to manage. Occasionally, we also reach out ourselves to begin the dialogue.

Interesting… so imagine if rather than having to go to companies for service — and waiting on hold and waiting and waiting… — the companies came to us! What a concept.

Think of that world-in-reverse: You post a need online, tagged with a microformat (more on that later), and people find you and bid to solve your problem or sell you their product, selling you with price and also with testaments of trust.

That’s not the world in reverse. That’s the world as it should be: The sellers come to the customers, not the other way around. The customers becomes the marketplace. I like that.