It wasn’t until I joined Twitter in July of ’08 that I first became aware of Alistar Dean. How this was even possible is beyond me. Al is one of those people who, upon meeting him for the first time, you know you will never forget. If asked to describe him, I would say he’s an uneven mix of father, scholar, punk and geek. I say uneven as I believe the mixture changes depending on environment. Perhaps ‘chameleon’ would be a more apt description? No matter, it is the sum of these parts that makes up the incredible Human being that is Al Dean.
Upon first glance, Matt West comes across as a quiet, unassuming guy. Perhaps even a bit geeky. These, I believe, would be apt descriptions, even if a bit contradictory to his current role. There’s more to Mr. West than meets the eye, however. He’s also an avid music lover (indie rock anyone?). In the two pictures below, you can see theses to opposing sides.
We’ll be focusing on the geek side of Matt today because, well, I didn’t include the rocker aspect in my interview. My bad.
Matt has a degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He parlayed that degree into a rewarding career at Circuit City. He spent 8 plus years there in various capacities, topping out as their eBusiness Manager. Thankfully, Matt saw the writing on the wall, with regards to Circuit City’s impending demise, and began looking elsewhere for employment. He and his wife decided that they wanted to live either in New England, or the Pacific Northwest. He applied for positions at SolidWorks and Amazon.com, simultaneously interviewing for both. He also, ultimately, received job offers from both. Obviously, had he chosen Amazon I wouldn’t be writing this…
Matt didn’t set out to be a Social Media Guru, it just happened while he was employed at Circuit City due to the advent of social media during his tenure, as well as his apparent knack for it. One position morphed into another, which morphed into another. This morphing occurred as social media was maturing and Circuit City actually began to embrace it which, ultimately, led to Matt’s current duties as Social Media Manager at SolidWorks.
Social Media, a term that Matt doesn’t really enjoy, is giving SolidWorks the ability to not only push out information to its customers, but to receive feedback from them in real time. Often times you’ll hear people saying that SolidWorks doesn’t listen to its customers. Matt’s response to that? “Bullshit”. Up until the recent passing of the torch, Matt had weekly meetings with Jeff Ray, that will hopefully continue with Bertrand, regarding what was being said on Twitter, or on Facebook, or in the blogs, or in the forums. This information is also passed on to whatever product group needs it as well. Often times, a discussion on another blog will prompt a response post on the SolidWorks blog, which Matt also manages. (At this point, I could go off on a tangent talking about how SolidWorks is using social media to improve their product, but that will come at a later date.) The thing about Matt’s current duties is this, they’re fluid. He manages SolidWorks’ Twitter account (@solidworks), as well as his own (@matthewwest). He handles the Facebook page and SolidWorks’ website content. Because he “gets around” at the office, he also helps out with other departments’ projects, from writing an article to providing video.
What Matt does for SolidWorks is going to grow in importance in the coming years. Only 10-15% of SolidWorks users, by his estimation, utilize social media right now (4000 followers on Twitter, 20k on Facebook and 55k on the forums), but that number is bound to grow as those in high school and college get out in the work world. Companies are going to need to be more available to their customers unless they want to be lambasted on the internet. People like Matt are going to need to make sure that their company’s executives understand the importance of not spurning Social Media, or their customers that use it. While they may be the vocal minority right now, it won’t be long before they’re the vocal majority. Matt, however, believes that his role will become less necessary; that as people and companies become more socially aware, social media will just become a part of everyday happenings and just “happen”, without the need of someone making sure it happens. While I can see his point, I hope it’s not true. It seems to me that when things become part of the norm, they eventually become passe. Once they become passe, people (read: companies) stop paying attention.
“Geeky” Matt picture stolen from Interempressas.net
“Rocker” Matt picture stolen from SolidSmack.com