All Ears

 Bikes, Gadgets, Swine  Comments Off on All Ears
Jun 252012

There’s a great article over at Fast Company describing the new “social media command centers” some companies are using to “capture, monitor, and utilize social media conversations.” Certainly sounds cool, but I can’t help but think all this talk of “response strategies,” “feedback internalization,” and “two-way conversations” is just the latest version of “this call may be monitored for training purposes”?

Dell, for instance, is cited as a specific example in the article:

Dell’s ground control center tracks around 22,000 daily posts about the company across a wide range of social media, and enables Dell to participate in online dialogue about their brand and use social media insights to improve their products and marketing.”

But everyone knows what sucks so bad about Dell. They subsidize the cost of everything by filling your computer with bloatware programs that make it run like ass. They also skin their vendors alive on pricing until the hardware in your PC makes the back aisles at RadioShack look pretty advanced. Will hearing that change their business model? Of course not.

Oddly, it seems like a lot of the companies investing so heavily in monitoring social media would be much better to allocate funds toward simply not being dicks. According to Manish Mehta, Dell’s VP of social media and community,”Ground Control is about tracking the largest number of possible conversations across the web and making sure we ‘internalize’ that feedback, good or bad . . . . It’s also about tracking what you might call the ‘long tail’–those smaller matters that might not bubble to the surface today, but are out there, and deserve to be heard.”


When it comes to large corporations, social media is all about pretending to give a shit, but the upside is that it requires actual human beings not just to give that shit, but even to pretend to give it. That’s the social media trap many companies are finding themselves in these days: they thought they could bullshit their way through it like they have so many other things involving customers, but the whole idea that social media is a two-way conversation ruins the whole automated bone-tossing bit. You have to engage with people.

The monstrous industry that’s evolved to support circumventing direct communication with people is certainly impressive. Effective, though? Difficult to say. Other than some game theory time-wasting, it’s tough to say what consumers actually get out of the new communication channels, clogged as they are with “command center” specialists listening and reacting, while still insulating the actual corporate decision-makers. Dell, I’m afraid to reveal, does not actually love you and want to have coffee with you. Even Apple thinks you’re kind of a pain in the ass, frankly.

A few bicycle frame manufacturers, in contrast are in touch with their consumers. Why, because they engage in the same activity as the consumers. That’s why the sight of something like this Kirklee Bikerumor posted recently makes many people who ride bicycles happy.

If you ride a bike, you stand a better chance of understanding what people who ride bikes want. That way, you don’t even have “like” them in order to make the products they want.