A Social Media Practicum

I will admit, when I walked out of the first class of the semester I was a little skeptical. Really, I’ve maintained some moderate level of skepticism all semester. I had a really hard time believing that social media was really all that powerful or influential or practical as a business tool outside of marketing.

I came into class very interested in the possibilities and where social might evolve. But I was sure we weren’t quite “there” yet. The whole way through my boss was very excited about me taking this course and bringing something back to the office. However, I wasn’t sure that social really had anything to offer my group. I thought social still had some growing to do before it could be really useful.

But as I read week-to-week, listened to the presentations and participated in small group discussions I started to slowly come around. There were things already out there that even someone skeptical of social like me could take and apply for useful purposes. Social even had the possibility of improving my community, not just my workplace.

Then we read “The Key to Social Media Success Within Organizations,” and I had a revelation. My organization didn’t have the culture or mentality to support social innovation. We were cutting edge five years ago when we transitioned to Agile development. We were so proud of ourselves for that accomplishment – Agile wasn’t supposed to work at a big company like ours. But where have we really innovated since? This week @shawnmcniff presented about Agile marketing and it blew me away. I had no idea Agile had evolved to marketing, and I guarantee no one I work with did either. Dread set in – we’ve entered that worst of places as a business; we were mostly content resting on our laurels. So maybe it wasn’t so much that social wasn’t ready for prime time, maybe it was that I was clouded by my company’s staid environment.

Once we read Professor Kane’s “Why Social Media Will Fundamentally Change Business” blog post it all clicked for me. We were already here. I couldn’t sit back and wait for social to come to me. I had to play and tinker and figure out a way to apply social in a method that worked for me and would intrigue others. Social was going to evolve and become more useful as people went into the lab with it. I needed to run a test case to prove this could work.

Part of my skepticism was founded in the belief that very few companies followed their feeds as religiously as an organization like Jet Blue. I thought when Paul Brown visited class he had found a true diamond in the rough. If only I had a customer service need that would allow me to take to Twitter…

… And then my car broke down.

broken-down-car

And it stayed broken down for days.

[Author’s note: I love my car. I have a Ford Escape. I have always driven a Ford. Ford makes a great vehicle. The issue with my car was something that could have happened to anyone in any make of vehicle. What you are about to read is how Ford has the most perplexing, ridiculous service process in the history of customer service / operations management. No Ford, even though this social experiment worked and you did an awesome job with the repair – you are not off the hook. You must do better, like, immediately.]

I knew the problem was with my engine. My coolant tank was empty and the engine had overheated. Given that it was the engine, I thought the best thing to do was to have Ford look at and repair my car. After all, they built it so they’d be able to figure out what was wrong. The Ford garage closest to me was at least honest as they were being completely unhelpful: “No way we’re going to be able to even look at your car until Friday.” This conversation took place on a Monday. Next on the list was the dealership where I bought the car.

“Sure, we’ll take it – might be a day, but we’ll get you in line and get it looked at as soon as we can,” I was told.

That wasn’t very definitive, but at least promising. The car was under warranty, I explained, so if they could at least look at the car and identify the problem I would be able to get a rental from the warranty policy until the car could be repaired. We’re still on Monday.

By Wednesday I was on my third call to the dealership and still no indication on when my car would even be seen, let alone repaired. Meanwhile, my boss was on the other line wondering when I’d be back at work. So here we were, the perfect proving ground. And so it began:

A response… within 2 minutes! I couldn’t believe it. The initial response turned out not to be super helpful (proving once and for all that social is only one part of the equation – you still have to have the customer service to back it up). However, if at first you don’t succeed…

I got a free rental as a courtesy for my inconvenience. My car was inspected and repaired by Friday (needed a new water pump). And, most importantly, I had proven to myself the power that social can have. There is no right way to do this, every social scientist must experiment for themselves.

I am a full convert: a social disciple. I know now that in the right environment, with the right people, for a clear purpose social can and will work. As we find new applications for social, social will evolve. And as it does it will only get better.

One comment

  1. First off, it’s awesome how you were able to bring your learnings from the class into your work place. I’m sure plenty of companies deal with the same hurdles trying to start using social media, so it’s great that you personally had these realizations to speed up the process. Secondly, loved hearing about your successful customer service experience using SM. I haven’t yet tried using social for purposes like these, but the more I hear of it working, the more I want to try myself! Overall, great concluding post.

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