If you follow ServInt on Twitter, you may have noticed a strange surge in profanity-laced tweeting coming from us and many of your fellow customers—and you may have wondered, what the $%#@! is going on here?
The honest answer is, we’re not entirely sure yet.
Let me explain. About a month ago, I was in a meeting with the ServInt Marketing team, discussing the fact that—while we have a relatively high proportion of customers who will shout from the mountaintops about how much they love us (thanks, guys!)—the vast majority of our customers are silent throughout the length of their stay with us as customers.
This topic was top of mind for us because we were in the process of designing a full-time staff position dedicated to customer outreach and relationship management, and we were frankly wondering how useful such a position would be if, in fact, people didn’t really want to engage with their web host unless something went wrong.
In any case, as we sat there contemplating the depressing possibility that our customers might actually see hosting like they see the electric company (i.e.: the only time you think about the electric company is when the lights go out) somebody blurted out: “What we really need to know is, does anybody actually give a $#!% about their web host?” There was a burst of laughter, but in the silence that followed somebody said, “We should just ask them.”
“Ask them what?”
“If they give a $#!& about their web host.”
“Just like that?”
“Yeah, just like that. Just ask them: do you give a $#!& about your web host?”
It was one of those times when somebody tosses out a slightly outrageous idea, and there’s a moment of silence and sidelong glances as people begin to wonder if they’re the only person who actually thinks the idea isn’t completely crazy.
We decided we’d start by asking the question of our reseller and web design customers, since we already had a formal line of communication out to them through our reseller/web designer newsletter, Fusion. (Interested in receiving Fusion? Email email@example.com.) To sweeten the pot, we had some silly “I give a $#!& about my web host” T-shirts printed up. In our next issue of “Fusion,” we asked the question, explained the reason for our curiosity, and offered a free T-shirt in exchange for any kind of reply.
By direct mail standards, the rate of response was pretty good, but not overwhelming: about 2% of Fusion readers responded, and all of them said very nice things about us (thanks again!). But that left us with two problems: 1.) though the evidence was still pretty clear that our customers like us, we still didn’t know why the silent majority was so silent; and 2.) we had a huge stack of slightly profane T-shirts we had to get rid of.
Then something happened. A customer of ours who’d responded to our silly survey tweeted his thanks for his T-shirt, and included a link to a photo of the gift. Folks started taking notice. We then realized: we could ask the Twitter universe the same question, with the same “prize” as an incentive.
Note: we didn’t ask folks to tweet the reasons why they liked us, or even why they chose us. We just wanted to know whether they cared about us—or any web host, for that matter. But what we got (and continue to get) were more unsolicited testimonials (thanks yet again!)—but this time, the world could see how highly our customers thought of us.
So why am I telling you all this? Well, the savvy marketers among you will probably recognize this as a transparent attempt to spread this effort into another social media channel. But I’m also telling you this because it’s an example of how any business can use social media to catalyze and accelerate discussion and engagement with its customers.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve stared out at your legion of Facebook fans and Twitter followers and wondered how many of them are actually listening, and if these channels truly live up to the hype.
But to think in these terms misses the mark of social media.
It’s not just lip service to say that social media is about engagement, about starting a dialogue. These channels don’t sell product, they build brand. After all, it’s social media, not social marketing. Use Facebook, Twitter and your blog to get your name out there and get known. Build a voice for your business, a personality.
Then when you launch a marketing campaign, you’ll have the name recognition—and the mailing list—to get noticed.
As for our little experiment, I still don’t know if this process will get us closer to answering the question “does anybody really give a $#!& about their web host.” But just making the effort to ask the question in public is yielding valuable results in a way we couldn’t have foreseen.
And if you’re interested, here’s our question again: Do you give a $#!& about your web host?
Let us know what you think—about the question or the campaign—and we’ll send you a free T-shirt. No strings attached. Just give us your thoughts. Should we take the deafening silence from our customers as a good or a bad sign? Do you think hosting customers in particular are any more or less likely to engage with their provider? Will that trend accelerate with the advent of the Cloud? We really want to know what you think. And thanks. Again.