An Englishman in Austin – Part 3

SXSW 3

OK, if you haven’t already heard about it, a moment on google should bring you up to speed on Meerkat, the latest and greatest mobile social platform to become the “next big thing” here at SXSW. It’s been a few years since the last product made a big impact onto the global stage from a launch at SXSW, and since then the eagle-eyed have been on the lookout for the next “twitter moment”. This year they weren’t disappointed as the whole conference seemed to be abuzz with “what is this meerkat thing anyway” and various people waving phones about in new and more confusing ways.

The irony is of course that it was twitter that gave Meerkat its “twitter moment” by cutting off meerkat from its feed (its “graph”) a couple of days ago (surely nothing to do with twitter’s acquisition of a competing startup I’m sure), but more than irony, this demonstrates something that the big boys and girls here at SXSW have been quietly wrestling with in their own businesses:

There’s a gap – quite a big one – between flash in the pan social network fads, and real businesses. Sure Facebook and twitter have managed to get their business models to a point where advertising makes sense and thus to a sustainable revenue model, but the more recent crop of new entrants – snapchat, what’s-app and now meerkat are still sitting in many folk’s “social networks that I don’t understand” bucket.

When one social network is the catalyst for propelling another into the news it just highlights the self-referential bubble that these tools and organisations are sitting in. The real-world businesses which can crack the code and make these tools work as a way real tool for two way communication with customers are now the ones to watch.

Feedback

In today’s world, we’re constantly asked for feedback.  Today I got three separate emails from companies I’ve dealt with recently asking if I could take a few minutes of my valuable time to give my feedback, but my recent experiences leave me questioning how often we’re really prepared to take feedback on board.

Take another example from today.  A recruitment agent that I’ve used for a recent appointment was in touch and asked “if I had any feedback about the way they’ve handled the appointment”.  My experience with them was overwhelmingly positive, but there were a couple of wrinkles that lead me to offer pointers as to how things could get even better.  Unfortunately when I offered these, what I got in response was a justification of why the person had done things the way they had.  I’m not saying I was right, but what’s the point of asking if you’re not going to listen.

And it goes beyond asking for feedback too, something as simple as incorrect signage, when highlighted to a team member of staff, could be instantly corrected, or could (as in my local “cafe in the woods”) be left in place to confuse each subsequent customer.

When selecting teammates, I look carefully at how they respond to feedback, and I am always on the look out for how I could do better.  Even if I have information which the person giving the feedback doesn’t have, there’s only one way to ensure that you’ll get vital and useful feedback in the future, and that’s to accept it graciously and see how you can really improve your business.