I operate most of my life acting as I would like other people to treat me. This rarely guarantees that people actually WILL treat me as I would like to be treated. But I carry on, not so much to be a martyr, but because I like being a nice person. So, for the most part, I try to feign ignorance to the inequity of nice to not nice actions I see around me on a day to day basis.
In my professional life, I pride myself in that same level of quality. My mom has been in customer service jobs for as long as I can remember and brought me up to value and respect the customer. For years I have been managing online communities and teaching my staff to respect the users above all else. A decade ago, when having a staff to listen to and interact with our users and really putting those users first, was seen primarily a loss center, albeit a nice thought, I fought the good fight for them (and usually in kid communities, no less!). When the dot-com bubble burst and there were just handfuls of us left crafting ROI defenses for adopting, or not trashing, online community strategies, I ate my ramen noodles to the glow of my computer and typed away, confident that my justifications would matter someday.
All that was not some sort of weird confession of my tenacity and awesomeness, but rather to setup the fact that, I have been pleasantly surprised lately with the online communities to which I belong. I have been so happy this year with the notoriety that social networking and online community has been getting. The mass market is finally adopting, in a real way, what myself and so many others have been trying to convince the world of for years.
But this week I received multiple personal examples that these new communities REALLY get it:
- I was introduced to ConceptShare at Mesh 2007 in March and loved the idea of it. I talked about it with many clients this summer and finally got a chance to actually use it myself on a project last week. I twittered about this and said how happy I was with the product. That’s it – one tweet. The next day I received an email from Will Pate, ConceptShare’s Community Evangelist (and many other web 2.0-y things), thanking me for the nice words and offering assistance, if I ever needed it, on the product. I was floored by the personal message and wrote back to say so, offering to search our staff for testimonials for him. They made an even bigger evangelist with just one email.
- I was procrastinating last week and reading some twitters and saw a request for a to-do manager, based on the GTD theory. I posted about the program I used in the past (iGTD), but was also able to learn that one of my FAVORITE software companies, OmniGroup, had recently put out a new to-do list manager based on GTD as well (OmniFocus). I was able to download it and start using it that day. I have bought many of OmniGroup’s products before, but I would not have been aware that they had released this new gem, unless my community of twitter-ers had informed me.
- I received an email from Dopplr today thanking me for being a beta tester. As an early adopter, I have helped beta test countless sites this year. But I think this is the first simple thank you I have gotten for doing so. I may have gotten others, but this one didn’t offer any cool incentives, didn’t feel like a request to virally market for them or anything like that. Just a “Hey, thanks for helping us out”. I liked the service before, but now I feel even more a part of it.
Maybe it’s not that the sea change of the net that I and many others have been patiently waiting for. Maybe it’s simply a coincidence that these great acts of customer service and community all happened in the past week. Maybe it’s just the holiday spirit making everyone giddy with niceness. But I am going to think that it’s a sign of a new age. Where community and good will isn’t something you just share with your family, your workplace or your neighborhood block. But that community can also be felt and spread in nebulous virtual places as well – be it an online community, between a company and a customer or as a respected consumer.
Let’s hope the good cheer continues on in 2008 and beyond. I’ll do my part, you should too.
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