Social media practitioners recognize that social media is a socially driven phenomena and not a technological one. This technology enabled trend has given consumers a voice in the direction and development of the products they consume. Companies that recognize the growing voice and power of the consumer will seize an opportunity to build brand equity much faster and much more cost effective than in the past. They will be able to successfully capitalize from social media by successfully building a relationship with their constituents. The strength created from this type of relationship will make a brand more competitive.
In order for a relationship between the brand and consumer to develop there must also be a vibrant community that rallies behind the brand. An example of such a relationship are products like the iPhone and iPad . These consumer products have a vibrant and loyal community. Even though many critics slammed the iPad, consumers demonstrated their power by lining up in droves to purchase the product the weekend it went to market. The crowd has spoken, and the iPad is now another strong product in the Apple portfolio. The iPad is a great B2C example. I was fortunate to discover a vibrant B2B community that mirrored this behavior.
Similar to the Apple iPad loyalists, the Informix community behaved as an equally passionate community. In this post, I am not going to spend time talking about the Informix product, rather the people that are passionate about the database. My next several blog posts will be about the Informix community and my experience and interactions with them. Please understand that my views are mine alone and are not that of IBM. Also, I am a newbie with Informix…so I still have a great deal to learn about the community.
Sociologists and community advocates often comment on the collective behavior of communities. I would add that there are members of that community that impact the larger population. These individuals have the personality and drive to shape the identity of the larger population.
Informix was a acquired by IBM several years ago and is a part of the Information Management portfolio. Even before the acquisition, the Informix community was a passionate group of people. I was recently brought in to the IBM Informix team.
My first introduction to the Informix community was at the 2010 International Informix User Group (IIUG) Conference in Kansas City the last week of April. Attending the IIUG user conference was a unique experience for me. I knew that B2B customers have products that they love, but I never actually experienced this in person.
Informix users have a great deal of pride in their work and are incredibly loyal and passionate about the Informix product. Yes, database developers and managers are incredibly passionate people! IBM is fortunate to have inherited these individuals when Informix was acquired. The acquisition concerned many of the Informix users. They were worried that IBM would absorb the product and sunset it. I was not a part of IBM at that time, and don’t really know what the motivations were for the acquisition. Even if that were true, it is fair to say that Informix is here to stay. After years of support, it is clear that IBM has no desire to sunset the product.
IIUG is an independent user group that works very closely with IBM to support the user community. Every community has its leaders that stand out. Most would agree that the current IIUG President, Stuart Litel, is one of the main reasons why Informix is alive and well at IBM. Stuart’s IBM network is strong and he never hesitates to leverage his connections when he needs to get something accomplished. While for many this may be a nuisance, I believe it is this trait that has kept Informix thriving. With his leadership, tenacity and persistence, Stuart has not only managed to keep Informix as a strategic part of the IBM database portfolio, but has also managed to keep the user community united and energized. The annual IIUG Conference continues to grow and many old Informix customers are retuning to IIUG and getting involved. As a new addition to the Informix community, I am looking forward to not only working with Stuart, but learning from such a senior individual.
Another individual that really stood out for me at the IIUG conference was Miguel Carbone. Miguel has been an Informix customer for quite some time. He was one of the 2010 IBM Information Management Champions. This is an IBM award given to customers and partners for dedication to the IBM Information Management Community. Miguel stands out for several reasons. He is more than just a loyal Informix user, he is an advocate. Currently he is working on building an Informix Center of Excellence in Brazil. Miguel has also translated many of the IBM Informix Redbooks into Portuguese, and he also has his own blog (in Portuguese) .
Miguel’s leadership in Brazil helps him connect with other customers in Brazil. He convinced 4 additional customers to fly to the conference with him. The individuals he brought are a part of a large Brazilian company that is the largest and oldest Informix customer in Brazil. This firm uses Informix in every part of their business and is the standard database used company wide. His work in Brazil and his network allows him build an active community. This single individual in a BRIC nation is able to create a foundation for other users to identify themselves with the Informix product and have a voice with IBM. More importantly his actions support a call to action for existing Informix users. Because Miguel believes that Informix is the best database on the market, he enjoys evangelizing to prospective customers and engaging with existing ones.
These two leaders are not the only IBM Informix users that stand out. I will cover more Informix leaders in future posts.
Stuart and Miguel are not employees of IBM nor compensated. Their work is voluntary and there actions are sincere. They are driven by there desire to evangelize the Informix product to the world. I believe that social media can take individuals such as Stuart and Miguel and turn them into personalities much larger than what they are today. These two leaders can take their passion and channel it to a larger audience. This year I will be working very closely with the IBM Informix community and IIUG to give a voice to thousands of passionate end users.
It is always people that make things happen. The technology is just a facilitator.