Thanks to MarkLogic‘s historical focus on the media industry, I had front-row seats to the social media revolution. But the part of the stage visible from those seats was how social media disrupted traditional media. How “weekly news magazine” became an oxymoron. How Craigslist wiped about classified advertising. How Yelp clobbered Zagat. How columnists became bloggers. How YouTube impinged on TV. How social sites gobbled up time from first traditional media and later alternative web-based media. I could go on and on.
Perhaps the single best slide I produced was entitled Media’s Philosophical Coasts (presentation here) where I contrasted East vs. West Coast media mentality.
I first came at social media from a media perspective. Secondly, I came at social media from a marketing perspective. After all, I’m a marketing guy by background and the more that people are saying in social media, the more you want to measure it the way we used measure traditional media. How many column-inches did we get? Was the tone positive negative? But the explosion in content and The Long Tail effect meant that there was no way you could hire English majors with rulers to get that data. You’d have to use technology. Spidering and/or licensing content, text mining to find entities and sentiment, and analytics for summarizing and interactively analyzing the data.
Sometimes I kick myself for not founding a company like Radian6. I was right in the middle of social media, unstructured information, text mining, and analytics. I saw the opportunity — heck, I watched some early text miners like Attensity pivot to social media (aka “voice of the customer”) applications as strategic plan B’s. But MarkLogic was perversely doing too well with its platform strategy to pivot to something else and I, at the time, didn’t have a practical way to so independently. (Axiom: burn your VCs and you never raise money again. Corollary: all departures must be organized and peaceful.)
If you’re not familiar with Radian6, check it out. It is an amazing platform for social media monitoring and engagement.
When you come at social media from a marketing perspective, you tend to think listen / analyze / monitor. What are people saying? How are they reacting? How can I slice-and-dice that information by location, by demographics, by target audience?
But when you come at social media from the third perspective — the customer service perspective — you can see another angle: engagement. If someone is Tweeting that they don’t like Comcast, you can do more than measure it. You can respond. See Comcast Cares. If someone says that they can’t find a BofA ATM, you can help them out. See @BofA_Help and their clever ^-based naming convention so you can see which person is helping you.
As the social revolution transforms us, it first hit media, then hit marketing, and is now hitting customer service. Customer service is now the front lines.
And if for some reason, you’re not yet convinced on the enormity of the social revolution, look at this video from Socialnomics.