Social Media Case Study: PowerWatch

Please forgive me if some of the details here are a bit fuzzy. This all happened thirteen or fourteen years ago.

In March of 1995, I joined a small computer manufacturer in Austin, Texas called Power Computing Corporation. Power Computing was the first licensee under Apple Computer’s new Mac OS licensing program. We made Mac clones.

My title was “Online Evangelist”. It was something of a catch-all job, with responsibilities for managing the website for the company, as well as for representing the company online. I monitored and engaged in conversations on web forums and Usenet, and was the gatekeeper of several of the public email aliases. It kept me busy, to say the least.

A few months later (don’t remember exactly how many), SDSU student Jeff Keller created PowerWatch, a consumer watchdog website. Either Jeff or someone he knew had had a problem with a purchase from Power Computing, and Jeff was going to make sure the world knew about it.

Anyone who has worked in computer hardware knows that problems with manufacturing happen. Sometimes you build a lemon. Sometimes the computer doesn’t get delivered on time. Or sometimes something is missing from the package. It happens to the best of companies. What’s important is how you react and how you fix the problem.

So, when PowerWatch came online, we could have tried to ignore the problem. We could have obfuscated. We could have done any number of things to try and cover the situation up.

Instead, Power Computing director of marketing Mike Rosenfelt and I decided to engage with PowerWatch.

I began to live on PowerWatch, visiting it three or four times a day. I answered pre- and post-sale questions. When I didn’t know the answer, I went and found out.

When people had a problem with their computer and/or order, I did everything I could to fix it. I received incredible backing and support from Rosenfelt and the executive team to get done what needed to be done. And it certainly help that Power Computing’s tech support and customer service teams had a great attitude about making things right for the customer. Many times, the fastest way to get something fixed was to go through PowerWatch.

Over time, we developed a huge base of fans that were willing to give us the benefit of the doubt when something went wrong. And we gained immeasurable data on what customers wanted from our computers.

This is what people today call social media marketing. Frankly, the idea isn’t that new, although the tools have gotten much better, and the percentage of the population online has certainly grown.

Social media marketing is about having a customer service mindset, and listening to your customers and prospects. It’s about engaging with customers when the the inevitable problems arise.

Then take what you learn and make your company better. That’s all there really is to it.