Have you ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? He is a successful Internet businessman, writer and regular speaker at events like SXSW. I like Vaynerchuk because he has a NY swagger and the requisite subway language so he feels like a neighbor when I listen to his keynotes and random video blogs. Beyond that, Gary is a hell of a smart guy who has interesting things to say about how companies need to think and act in order to be successful in an online world.
Gary talks about the "thank you economy" and has written a popular book with the same title. The idea is businesses need to use the Internet to engage customers and build positive relationships. He thinks most businesses use the Internet like "19 year old guys" who want to "close the deal too fast." Rather than take time to understand customers and respond to their needs, most businesses use internet tools to spam out links to sale opportunities and push out "content" to potential customers. Vaynerchek contends that businesses "don't care about users enough. They just don't."
Gary talks about when he was building his online wine business he would search twitter for words like "Merlot" and answer people's questions. He did not spam them with a link to the site where he sold Merlot, he just answered their question thereby building trust and planting the seed of a relationship. Eventually he had a customer who turned to him for their Merlot purchases. Vaynerchek doesn't pretend to care about his customers, he demonstrates that he *does* care. What a concept.
I was listening to the video below today and I got to thinking about the latest kerfuffle between Linden Lab and users. LL put out policy statements that did not sit well with the user community. Predictably, users got mad and used all the tools available to them to make their displeasure known. Loudly. Various bloggers have admonished other bloggers about the unproductive way in which they lash out at Linden Lab. The dysfunctional cycle continues, to the dismay of all.
The new business reality is a single disgruntled customer can really fuck a company up. When there is a group of pissed off customers, it can be a big problem for an organization. Any individual with a cell phone can spew all kinds of garbage, true or not, to thousands of people in an instant. That is the environment in which we live and it is the environment in which Linden Lab and all other businesses operate in 2012.
So what would Gary Vaynerchuk say about the dysfunctional relationship between Linden Lab and its customers? I can guess he would wonder why Linden Lab is not reaching out to the angry, loud, critical community and talking to them. I can guess he would say LL should care enough about users to develop personal relationships with them, particularly those who have a habit of writing critical things about Second Life on the Internet.
Most importantly, I think Vaynerchuk would suggest the responsibility for repairing the broken relationship falls squarely on the shoulders of Linden Lab if they want to cultivate a growing, happy customer base. If customers are that unhappy with the relationship they have with Linden Lab they will eventually lose interest and move on to other competing services. It really is that simple.
Hat tip to Will Burns who pointed me to this video. It is long but I really encourage you to watch. I promise you it is worth your time.