Social Advertising

In the nine and a half years I’ve been in Germany, I’ve given the German telephone company, Telekom, a shitload of money. Regardless of this fact, I have never managed to speak to a living, breathing, human Telekom employee in less than 15 minutes of waiting on hold. Once the employee is actually on the phone with me, there’s a 75% chance I’ll be put on hold again, a 90% chance he’ll misunderstand what I need, and a close to 100% chance I’ll be promised something which won’t happen. There are alternatives, I could switch to another provider. And if I did, Telekom wouldn’t care any more than an elephant cares if a fly leaves its back.

Let’s compare that to customer service web 2.0 style.

You can imagine how surprised I was to get a reply to a recent post direct from the product manager for Ma.gnolia, Todd Sieling. Okay, okay, I’m cynical enough to think it could as well have been his intern… wait a sec, web 2.0 product managers can’t afford interns, can they? Anyway, Todd wrote:

I’m the product manager for Ma.gnolia, so I took a lot of interest in your post here. You’re very right that we’ve had performance problems. It’s one of the most common things about Ma.gnolia that people tell us needs to be fixed, and like you, we wouldn’t stick with a service that didn’t run quickly enough.

So I hope you’ll accept my invitation to check us out again. We’ve made some really interesting changes in the last couple days, and the results have been encouraging. We still have some new server hardware to add (we had our main server melt down a couple weeks ago, and since then have been running on one poor little database server) and some new network configuration changes to make, but right now we’re seeing good results just from application changes.

Wow I kinda geeked out there a bit. Anyway, I hope you’ll give us a look again, and regardless of your decision we do appreciate the the time you did spend with us while we weren’t at our best.

How’s that for service? Pretty damn nice of Todd, I must say. But wait a sec. I’ve never given Ma.gnolia a cent in my life; hell, I’ve never even clicked a banner on their site (sorry Todd!) So what could possibly inspire the product manager to write me? Does Todd just have too much time on his hands? And why does he even care if I use Ma.gnolia or not?

Massage the Geeks

Todd knows that geeks like me are not only his target group, but also his marketing department. We write blogs, link stuff we like, and hype or diss everything that pops up on our radar. By diving into the blog he’s showing us that he belongs. Hey, Todd’s one of us!

Search Love

This one’s easy: he writes me, I write about his reply and indirectly his product, his product is better linked, and through his and my text his product is more goggleable (did I just invent a word?) and even if it’s only a 0.01% improvement, his product gets found more often.

One to Many

In the old school customer service model, it takes time for word to get around. I tell a friend Telekom screwed me again. Now 2 people know. Maybe after a few weeks my friend tells another. Now 3 people know. Slow. Todd’s comment here puts Ma.gnolia’s customer service on show. One complaint, one reply, and if my readership ever soars above the tens, many witnesses.

The Bottom Line

The mistake Ma.gnolia made was ignoring their core function. They have some very nice window-dressing, no doubt about it, but in the end a bookmark web app is just a virtual brain where I can remember some of the hundreds of sites I see weekly. If I use a bookmarking app at all, then what I absolutely need is speed and ease of use. Nothing more. If those aspects are missing, then the other gimmicks don’t mean a thing to me. Ma.gnolia is was mostly gimmick. has almost no gimmicks, but right from the start they hit the core function on the head.

But to be fair, Todd’s right. Ma.gnolia has improved. I haven’t checked with anything more empirical than my own feeling for time, but their site, or more importantly their bookmarklets, now load in about the same few seconds. Everything’s fast enough that it no longer annoys me. I haven’t checked much deeper than that yet, so I can’t say much about their API, for example.

The bottom line for me personally is: too little, too late. I’ve already switched, I’ve found to be what I need, their API was easy to use to suck my bookmarks into this site, and I don’t see anything at Ma.gnolia that is such a killer feature that I’d be willing to go through the hassle of switching back. On top of that, while it’s worth a few cool points to be on the side of the underdog, the social aspect of any web app is only as good as the size of their community, and wins here hands down.