These conversations happen in the pub, in the bleachers of our kids soccer games, and just about everwhere. We're all having public conversations all the time, where the only privacy is that of proximity - you really don't know who that is sitting at the next table, and usually you really don't care. Now many of those conversations have moved to Twitter, or Facebook, or your blog. Some of those are open conversations that are easily found, searched, and aggregated and some aren't.
I’ve been wandering recently, in my thoughts, around and through something I’m calling “The Public Flow.”
It started as a vague concept, triggered by conversations about “The Flow” – the moving stream of information that’s always there, described by Stowe Boyd, Kevin Marks and others. Doc Searls calls it “The Live Web.” But some of that flow is obscured, private, shared among friends and our web contacts or inside walled garden systems. I think what’s most interesting is the portion of The Flow that’s happening out in public – The Public Flow.
People have always spoken in public about their lives and what’s happening around them. Most of it has always happened outside formal community forums such as the Town Council. These conversations happen in the pub, in the bleachers of our kids soccer games, and just about everwhere. We’re all having public conversations all the time, where the only privacy is that of proximity – you really don’t know who that is sitting at the next table, and usually you really don’t care. Now many of those conversations have moved to Twitter, or Facebook, or someday on Google Wave. Some of those are open conversations that are easily found, searched, and aggregated and some aren’t.
My friend Laura Fitton, aka Pistachio spoke about Twitter at Google back in April. In discussing the organic flow of information on Twitter, she made this point:
When you go out and do focus group research and explicit market research, people freeze up a little bit and don’t quite get the right natural answer about how they really feel about a product, how they really experience a problem that a product might solve, how they really interact with information. But when someone bothers to tweet about it, that’s a very natural, authentic thing, so the quality of data and the volume of data flowing through it are potentially extremely valuable, and I think we’re just beginning to see good search tools…
What will happen as we develop better tools for understanding and participating in this Public Flow? How will life change? How will business change? How will our communities change?
How will it change us?
You want the virtuous cycle, or the vicious one?
The key is to create a virtuous cycle of great support, product improvement, and customer loyalty & recommendations. It's a virtuous cycle of good will. Here are the steps:
What customers want, more than anything else, is for your support to be effective. They want an answer their request promptly, they want us to understand the problem they are having, and help them fix it. Maybe they’d also like to understand a bit about it themselves. Oh, and could you make it so that this problem doesn’t happen anymore?
Tall order. But we all know this is right, because it’s what we all want. But it’s too expensive to deliver that sort of service to everyone, right?
Delivering effective support is more cost effective than any alternative. It solves problems the first time, eliminating call-backs and telephone-tag. It understands the problem, and takes the right actions to document the work-around, file the right bug report, and make the right change to the documentation. It gets that understanding built into the product, making the product better and more valuable.
You want the virtuous cycle, or the vicious one?
The key is to create a virtuous cycle of great support, product improvement, and customer loyalty & recommendations. It’s a virtuous cycle of good will. Here are the steps:
– Do a great job of supporting your customers and understanding their problems
– Build what you learn back into your product
This is simple, but it’s not easy. And this isn’t just the job of the support team. It takes a whole company focus.
Yesterday I did an @-reply to Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer):
@Scobleizer, for me twitter is for getting interesting insights and ideas. I’m sure not going to get them from those who follow me! (ducks)
Robert had tweeted his blog post on a change of follow habits, You are SO unfollowed! in which he said:
On Monday I unfollowed 106,000 people on Twitter. The reaction so far has been quite interesting. More than 7,000 accounts have unfollowed me back.
Twitter is such a useful ecosystem for ideas and news, why would you want to limit it to only those who want to listen to what you say?
I follow people I find interesting. Some of them follow me, some don’t. Either way, it’s ok. If @gruber, @mkapor or @timoreilly were to follow me, I’d be flattered. But it certainly doesn’t bother me if they don’t. I actually prefer to presume that most of the folks who follow me do so because they find me interesting.
Some of those 7,000 who un-followed @Scobleizer were bots or other sorts of spamming machines. That’s another reason to just follow twitter accounts that you find valuable – my direct messages in twitter don’t suck since everyone I follow is interesting to me. Scoble’s original post does a nice job of enumerating the reasons his change of habit has improved his Twitter experience.
I do wonder what’s next for Twitter. It’s useful and fun, but it’s also still changing and growing. Clients and tools like Seesmic Desktop, CoTweet, and FriendFeed are all changing the way we use Twitter. What’s next, I don’t know. But I’m enjoying the conversation.