Warnock's dilemma

Silence of the Customers: Why some posts go unnoticed

Written by on January 16, 2014

Every now and then, we write a blog post that doesn’t get any response at all. We carpet bomb social networks and not one nest is stirred. No feeble tweets, no likes and certainly no discussions. Quite a number of times, we’ve felt like the only ones listening to us were the NSA.

 A little research revealed to us exactly why some posts were so well loved that they started flame wars while others have only crickets chirping in the comments section.

And that’s how we came across Warnock’s Dilemma.

Proposed by Bryan Warnock, the Warnock’s Dilemma tries to explain why some mailers or blog posts gather dust and cobwebs in the corner of the internet while others cause meme standoffs and comparisons to Hitler in the comments section. The dilemma proposes five possible scenarios to explain why the post may not have gained traction.

Warnock’s Dilemma No. 1: “The post is correct, well-written information that needs no follow-up commentary. There’s nothing more to say except ‘Yeah, what he said.’”

Typical new feature announcements or bug fixes are short and terse, stating what has been changed in the product than how the changes will affect the users. Most companies treat their bug fixes and version numbers like a milestone achieved rather than a customer problem rectified.

 If you’ve ever been to the App Store (or Play Store) then I’m sure you’ve felt an incredible, overwhelming rage come off you in waves when an app updates and all the changelog shows is “bug fixes” and the version number changes from 8.00.10.342 to 8.00.10.346.

Instead, pull a Google. Keep the language simple. Let customers know what has changed with the latest release. Provide information instead of technical mumbo jumbo.

They may not be pleased with what you’ve done and what has been changed, but they’ll definitely talk to you and come back to tell you what you should be doing next.

Warnock’s Dilemma No. 2: “No one understood the post, but won’t ask for clarification, for whatever reason.”

When there are cat pictures to see and Christopher Nolan movie rumours to be read on reddit or Twitter or Buzzfeed, bombarding your readers and community members with corporate jargon isn’t going to help.

Don’t confuse them with detailed posts about server management and political science. Don’t you see that they don’t care enough to sit and learn about those? Tell users stories that they want to listen, stories that make sense, and ultimately stories that they will narrate at the dinner table.

Warnock’s Dilemma No.3“The post is complete and utter nonsense, and no one wants to waste the energy or bandwidth to even point this out.”

We found that this dilemma is a wee bit out of date. After all, in this age of information, trolls don’t lurk under bridges. They lie in wait in the comments section of blogs and news sites and ambush the unwitting commenter. Even the most incorrect and most nonsensical of blogs nowadays cause flame wars. Rumours about Area 51, articles about cooking bacon wrong and Fox-hunt articles on Obama all get insane results.

Nowadays, it is the insipid and boring posts that don’t get any attention at all. Popular posts polarize. They divide people. They force people into forming an opinion and into taking a side. Look at all the companies with a fan following. It is always an “Us vs. Them” — Apple vs Google, Harley vs Rest of the World

Success is no longer merely measured in comment counts. It is also measured in terms of Hate Mail received.

So write “amazing” posts. Write what you believe in. Make a loud noise by bombarding Twitter with links and Facebook with statuses. Incite them.

Warnock’s Dilemma No.4: “No one read the post, for whatever reason.”

Knights have Lances. Batman has Batmobile. We have Google Analytics. Where do your usual visitors come from? Use GA to find out if you get more visitors from Twitter or Facebook. Find out what time they are coming in and what time zone they are coming in from. Make sure your tweets and status updates go out at scheduled intervals with apps like Buffer.

5th of November may not mean much when you’re in Japan but if your audience is from Britain, they’ll be too busy burning a Guy to read your post and tweets. And if your customers are from China, you might want to keep track of holidays like Dragon Boat Festival since it falls on a different day every year.

Keep track of when and where your customers are willing to listen.

Warnock’s Dilemma No.5: “No one cares about the post, for whatever reason”

Community forum posts about feature requests are always active, while the company announcements page rarely has any responses. Ever noticed that?

Bragging is fine. But tooting horns in your feature request forums about the excellence of your product is not going to get any reactions from your fans. Asking them how to improve and what to add, asking them to contribute value to a product they love and a company they adore will get you infinitely more responses than telling them how awesome you are for releasing a feature in time.

Sure, occasionally asking fans for input might mean Justin Bieber will end up in North Korea. But, hey that’s where common sense comes in, right?

Right?

Is anyone listening to me?

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  • Gordon Watson

    Nope…

    Well OK, you got me, yes! Good article mate 🙂

    Oh and BTW there is ONLY 1 way to cook bacon!!

  • epitomized

    I feel like I need to comment on this great post about people not commenting.

  • Jeyanthan

    Well, okay. Great to see an OT post. Quite interesting and helpful though 🙂