The Cluetrain Manifesto is a book written 10 years ago and it describes the way in which businesses and social networks interact for the greatest amount of utility. The book starts off with 95 theses that describe how businesses should use social networks to their advantage, or be overtaken by other companies who simply get it. Thomas Petzinger, Jr. of The Wall Street Journal, sums up the ideas nicely in the forward:
The idea that business, at bottom, is fundamentally human. That engineering remains second-rate without aesthetics. That natural, human conversation is the true language of commerce. That corporations work best when the people on the inside have the fullest contact possible with the people on the outside.
Keith McCarthur is the social networking coordinator for Rogers and Fido and he originally contacted me about BlackBerryCool.com. We talked about the challenges bloggers face when interacting with carriers. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I discovered his project to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto by having 95 bloggers write a post on one of the Cluetrain Manifesto theses. As my experience is blogging in the smartphone industry, I chose a thesis I felt fitting for those experiences.
Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
From the perspective of Research in Motion, social networking is important, they just aren’t completely sure how to implement it. I have heard rumors that the top executives at RIM are just starting to roll out a comprehensive social networking plan. This is a good time to discuss my thoughts on RIM and social networking.
In order for RIM to effectively communicate with their market using social networks, we need to see them optimizing their reach to include as many BlackBerry users as possible, and to not just listen, but listen and react.
Lets look at the relationship RIM has had with the blogosphere to date. Something you need to know about RIM is that it is a company with a very traditional work culture and a low degree of flexibility. Although this is changing, there was a time when I knew employees at RIM who would not even tell people where they work, because “loose lips sink ships.” The work culture has relaxed a lot since then, but it’s still not a company geared towards having a relationship with the blogosphere. That’s not to say that RIM’s public relations don’t support the blogosphere, again, they just aren’t positive how to interact with them. The blogosphere is just starting to shed a bad reputation for being someone’s personal journal and is getting the respect that major newspapers once monopolized.
One of the reasons the blogosphere has taken so long to gain the trust of companies like RIM, is that embargoes and NDA’s have often been broken in an attempt by bloggers to get the info out first. This sort of underhanded traffic driving may help their site temporarily, but it discredits the blogosphere in general. Leaking information and taking control away from RIM pr is a quick way to get yourself a cease and desist order from their lawyers. If social networks are to really work with RIM, we need to build a level of trust that traditional media has mastered.
Once the blogosphere has gained the trust of these companies, I believe social networks will be instrumental in bridging the gap between the BlackBerry market and the manufacturer. Just look at all the valuable feedback RIM gets from sites such as BlackBerryCool.com.
Here is a list of 5 things RIM could implement right now that would help them leverage social networks to reach their market and improve their product:
- Put the top 20-50 blogs on a mailing list and get them each new device as soon as it launches. Spread the information and let the consumer make informed decisions.
- Leak information every now and then to the blogosphere as a sign of good faith, and to keep up the hype.
- Use Twitter, blogs, Facebook and other social networking tools to distribute updates directly to device owners quickly OTA.
- Listen to your social networks and react. When users unanimously complain about an OS feature, consider releasing a micro-update to correct immediately. Don’t hold out on us!
- Tell us what you’re working on. Let’s move away from this idea that everything is under embargo and everything is secret until it’s official. If you’re working on a cool LTE BlackBerry, just tell us. Talk the language of your customers which is a love of the device and technology. You will keep a loyal fan base by just continuing the discussion.
By implementing these 5 points and generally working closer with the blogosphere, RIM could learn more about what their users need and react faster than the competition. This is how a successful smartphone manufacturer will operate in the coming years.
I’m more than confident that RIM will seize the opportunity inherent in social networking.