Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Social media – what does it mean for NonStop?

It’s all about your customer experience; NonStop community needs to step up and join the conversation!

It was only a matter of time before I started writing for an automobile magazine. This shouldn’t come as too big a surprise to the NonStop community as for many years stories about cars have been liberally interwoven into story lines featuring NonStop systems. I am now writing a column for the National Auto Sports Association (NASA) magazine, Speed News. I have a really good professional editor in Brett Becker who is really helping me out when it comes to shortening my stream of consciousness and turning it into something you would want to read.

If you belong to NASA you may want to check it out as I am now covering the High Performance Driver Events (HPDE) sessions NASA runs for those who simply want to take their own cars out onto tracks across America to have fun in a safe environment. Usually, you will find all the cars headed in the same direction which isn’t necessarily the case on America’s interstate highways.
There is a correlation between NonStop folks and those who take their cars onto road courses. I am not talking about that mutant sport drag racing nor am I talking about the theater that is NASCAR, but rather, those who race around tracks designed for today’s high-end sports cars. 

For Margo and me it all started following a conversation with former head of Mission Critical Systems R&D, Hal Massey. Hal was an accomplished semi-pro and he was a whole lot of fun to be around when track weekends arrived. So too was former lead NonStop development manager, Mike Plum – if you want to buy a real race car, Mike is now selling his Plum Crazy Camaro Mustang Challenge (CMC) race car! And then there is Simon Whitworth whom I caught up with during my time at GoldenGate who tracked a Mazda Miata. No summary would be complete without a reference to my former boss, Chris Rooke, who for years thought nothing about thrashing his lovely Porsche on California’s many tracks.

Writing a column for a motoring magazine has brought me back into conversations about the value proposition of social media. What do the many social media channels do to better communicate a message, a company and a brand? What kind of community do they foster and what level of interaction occurs among readers who turn to social media for product information and user insights? There is a lot being said these days in support of mainframes and yes, mainframe-class systems and no, apparently, you cannot run mainframe class anything on x86. This has led me to push back hard on one financial services investors blog and yes, the response has been something I expected to see happen.

If you want to know more about those exchanges I have summarized them in the upcoming Social Media Round-Up column to the August edition of NonStop Insider. Watch for it and check it out – should be published in a matter of days. But it has also led me to publish a separate post to the LinkedIn blog, Pulse, and you may want to take a look at that as well:

Point is, when it comes to social media channels and the messages that bloggers and commentators provide, they absolutely demand our input and it’s not unexpected to see push back as sometimes, enthusiasm and an almost religious zeal, come across. However, all too often it’s clear that some of the religious zeal does become a bit much and is more akin to the preaching originating in a cult. And that never ends well, from all that I have read.

Two years ago, TCM Solutions CEO, Tony Craig, suggested I write the column, Social Media Round-Up, for one very good reason. Very few members of the NonStop community have the time to chase down everything that is being said on social media. Nor does the NonStop community have time to get engaged in some of the more volatile exchanges. As for me, well, by now it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as yes, this is my job! Being tasked to write the column has only further fueled my interest in watching as many social media channels as I can and to step in whenever I see misleading information being conveyed.

However, I am not alone in this matter and increasingly I am seeing other members of the NonStop community stepping in – seriously, would any of us doubt someone like Randall Becker not taking bloggers that make erroneous statements to task. Or what about the updates that come from Bill Highleyman every time there is a failure somewhere in the world – was a NonStop involved? While we would love to see a more active role being played by the NonStop product managers there are legal constraints involved and I am sympathetic to what they have to read on occasion. After all, decades ago I was a Tandem product manager and I know first-hand how hard that is to take. But then, we had Bill Heil as our manager and he didn’t stand for any misinformation being published in any media channel.

For NonStop social media is very much a two edged sword. Become too agitated and your message gets discounted. Oh, it’s only Richard yet again – he wears Tandem underwear! Or socks! Whatever! Try to be persuasive relying on facts alone and readers become bored and turn to something else to read. And try to mediate a middle ground and well, you quickly entice those who want to better educate you and sway your opinions to positions they prefer. It’s all a delicate ballet in many respects and yet, novice or professional, the NonStop community does need to do a much better job of engaging the IT community at large.

One of the byproducts of social media is that it truly has relegated the analysis by well-known research firms to a secondary role. Yes, they continue to charge a premium and if you absolutely need the inside skinny as to where a market is headed, they provide value. But try to influence them or inch your way onto charts well, it may not be worth the premium commanded by these firms. Likewise, former hard-copy publications like ComputerWorld or even Datamation (remember them?) have gone digital, of course, but who has the time to page through these publications. And other than picking up a copy left in the back pocket of an airline seat, who even sees CIO magazine these days? Give me the essence in a brief tweet! Perhaps not; there is still a need for in-depth analysis along with user perspective on selection and then deployment of middleware and solutions.

Web sites are suffering a similar fate. Great places to store your marketing collateral and to provide updates about the management team – but when it comes to engaging with the community, these sites provide little comfort. And whoever came up with chatbots – Hi! How can I help you? What are you looking for? Well, get out of my face! A bit tough, I know, but the novelty has worn off and I know the tire sizes of my cars and I know the manufacturers I trust. Can I just order a new set and pay for them? Now!

Every vendor I interact with is anxious to develop ecosystem around their products. They want to see an “enthusiastic community” develop to support their business pursuits. And it is the instant gratification that comes with interacting with social media that offer perhaps the best prospect of developing such a community. This week I wrote an email to my clients where I referenced an article published in Forbes magazine a while back that captures the real value of social media by my way of thinking. 

According to a Forbes contributor, Daniel Newman, Social Media Is No Longer A Marketing Channel, It's A Customer Experience Channel:
“The business world is finally beginning to realize what the ‘social’ in social media means—and can do—for every organization. In my Forbes 2016 marketing predictions piece, I talk about how brands will increasingly recognize that social media is no longer an isolated marketing channel used primarily to sell their product or service. What once served primarily as a platform to increase sales is now a meeting space, and has become part of the brand experience itself. If you've noticed a drop in participation or followers, now is the time to reflect on how you are using social media platforms …”

Writing for a car magazine and one focused on motor racing is part of developing the customer experience. Racers just love to see their name in print just as they like even more to read about their winning a race somewhere. More than one vendor in the NonStop vendor community also races cars and for Margo and me it’s become a fun way to determine the qualifications of an engineer. Do they fly a plane? Do they play a musical instrument? Do they race a car? More often than not it’s two out of three but you get the idea, right? As for the picture above, this was taken of me on track just outside Denver when a tornado touched down just a couple of hundred yards away – kicked off quite a storm. Isn’t it about time we kicked off a storm of our own?

The NonStop community possesses a very powerful voice and it’s one that is supported up and down the line by HPE development dollars. So, next time you see something that isn’t portraying NonStop accurately then step right in. But if this isn’t something you feel comfortable doing than by all means, let people like Randall, Bill, and yes, Margo and me know about it. You can be assured we won’t let any falsehoods thrown NonStop’s way survive unchallenged in the media!  

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