This January, I’ve been working on a super interesting primary research project in the telecom space. In partnership with Telesperience, Lithium is conducting a global study of 40+ telecoms across Europe, North America and Asia looking into the business impact of their social media investments.
I’ve had a peek at the raw data and the early analysis and I’m like I kid at Christmas. But it’s more like I can’t wait until you open your gift—I think you’re really going to like it. But you have to wait! The findings will be released February 14 th during a webcast hosted by Mike Betzer, SVP of Lithium Social Web (register here). A full report will be available immediately after the webcast.
Here’s why this particular project has been near and dear to my heart. My first job out of college was as an account exec selling B2B telecom services for MCI in (get this) Santa Clara, CA. My whole territory was like 4 zip codes. And I shared it with a senior AE and a couple of major and national account reps with named accounts. Let me tell you, none of us was hurting. For a kid just out of school, life was grand.
Coincidentally, our upcoming webcast host, Mike Betzer, also was with MCI back in those days. While I was hitting up tech companies in Silicon Valley, Mike was on the consumer side setting up call centers. And call centers. And call centers. It’s been terrific fun to reminisce with him about those days. It was an amazing ride. As Mike commented recently, “It was—and still is—the biggest market shift in history.” The MCI story remains one of the most interesting business stories of all time.
Not many of us may remember that MCI can practically be credited with creating the telecom industry. In 1963, Microwave Communications, Inc. was created to set up a series of microwave relay stations for truckers between Chicago and St. Louis. In 1974 they filed an antitrust law suit against AT&T citing their local operators (the Bell companies) engaged in unfair trade by refusing to do business with MCI.
For 6 long years, MCI trudged forward, even re-locating their headquarters to Washington DC so they could stare down the 9,000 lb gorilla that was American Telephone and Telegraph. In June of 1980, the suit was settled. MCI was awarded $1.8 billion in damages. But way better than all that cash, as we used to love to say, “We broke up Ma Bell”.
A president was set; the market was free to compete. The telecommunications race was on and we were at the head of the pack. May I say, the view was nice! Innovating all over town with new products—teleconferencing, MCI Fax, MCI Mail (yes, email). I had nothing short of a blast selling for MCI.
Overnight, a competitive industry was born. Innovation spiked sharply northward. Networked communication has only gotten better, faster, and more powerful ever since. It’s almost like the whole Internet was a forgone conclusion the minute that law suit was settled.
But here’s the punch line: If you were to ask any employee from those years what was the secret to MCI’s success, odds are they’d say, “Friends and Family”. Remember that campaign? Somewhere around 1988 somebody got the very simple but very clever idea: “Have our customers sign up their friends and family and we’ll give them special rates when they talk to each other” Ka-Boom! MCI customers were signing up other customers right, left, top and bottom. MCI common shares went from $5 to $40 in 22 months.
Industry watchers who remember MCI Friends and Family sometimes mischaracterize it as a loyalty program. It was, but the story so doesn’t stop there. The cool part of the story is this: community-based word-of-mouth marketing can be a total game-changer. I mean, if you’re looking for business metrics to measure the success of a word-of-mouth campaign, you can’t do much better than an 8 fold increase in stock price.
Yes, those were heady days. So you can see why peering into the place where telecom and social meet has been an especially engaging project for me. I can’t help but think about how far we’ve come since MCI’s Friends and Family…or have we?
Are telecoms still pushing the envelope? Are they still using the power of their own customer networks to drive real business change? Join us on February 14 th and find out.
Bonnie is a B2B marketing vet with a passion foremerging SaaS technologies. As director of content strategy for Lithium, she drives real business results with customer-centric, data-driven, omni-channel content strategies. You can follow her on Twitter @btsite.
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Join us to recognize and celebrate the tireless efforts of community managers throughout the Bay Area. Lithium is once again sponsoring the Community Manager Appreciation Day with a happy hour in San Francisco on Monday, January 28 at District – 218 Townsend Street. This year we’re partnering with The Community Roundtable, Altimeter, Adobe, Brandle and Yammer to offer our thanks, along with some good food and drinks. It’s a great opportunity to network, so we hope to see you there.
We’ve created an Eventbrite invitation for those who would like to register - http://cmadsf2013-eorg.eventbrite.com/#
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Great minds think alike! Here's our friend, Michelle Kostya, Senior Manager, Social Media Enablement at Rogers Communications talking about the importance of branded online communities in social support. We couldn't agree more--in fact, we came to the same conclusion ourselves a few months ago... check out Online Communities - The Heart of Social Strategy, the Lithium whitepaper on a similar topic.
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When Paul Ryan appeared on the Republican ticket last fall, two familiar words burst onto the scene like popcorn: Ayn Rand.
Like for many others, Ayn Rand burst into my life at 19, and I lapped up her entire cannon like a plate of cream. Twice. But the world has changed a lot since I fell for the ideal of hyper-individualism.
It’s not that the Internet Age proves she got it wrong. In fact, it shows that Ayn Rand got a whole lot right. She said the human will is amazing and that freedom and opportunity make it flourish.
Working in social technology, I see how right she was. There’s a deep passion for human ingenuity in this business. Where the stakes are high, the talent is top notch and the work product is fantastic. Yet there’s another group that plays just as important a role in the Information Age: The crowd.
I can’t help but wonder what Ayn Rand would have to say about the phenomenon of crowdsourcing—where the work product comes from an undefined group of mostly (pardon my language, Ayn) volunteers?
Crowdsourcing is the process of tapping the collective for ideas. Turns out, the collective gives them up like gumballs, asks little or nothing in return, and before you know it we have wonderful things like Apache Software and Wikipedia.
The Internet Age shows us what Ayn Rand would call an irrational force—the desire to serve—rocks! I can get Wikipedia on my iPhone instantly for free. The Encyclopedia Britannica, before it went out of print, was cumbersome, expensive, and made the book shelves sag.
When Ayn Rand asks who should benefit from our output, she offers two choices: You or me. Today’s answer is both. The power of the crowd is proof. Sometimes providing value for others is personal gain.
I’d like to think a John Galt of this century would have been among the first to spot the power of the crowd. He dedicated his life, after all, to the pursuit of an inexhaustible supply of cheap energy.
This article was originally aired as a KQED listener perspective.
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Crowdsourcing is the process of leveraging the many to achieve what was once the domain of a very specialized few. It's a new and hugely efficient for matching talent and knowledge with those who need it. It's a novel opportunity for business to realize off-the-chart scale - especially when it comes to knowledge management. Turns out, creating, codifying and making knowledge easy to find is one of the things the crowd does very, very well.
Find out how top brands like HP and Lenovo are saving tens of millions by tapping the crowd for product knowledge and solutions—and scaling their support functions by many fold in the process in this new whitepaper from Lithium:
Whitepaper: From Crowdsourcing to Knowledge Management Tweet this!
You can also tune into a recent webcast we held on the topic with guest speakers Mark Hopkins of Lenovo, and Jeff Howe, the man who coined the term crowdsourcing in Wired Magazine:
On-demand webcast: From Crowdsourcing to Knowledge Management Tweet this!
Keep up with, share, and comment on Lithium content on Twitter: #lithcontent
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