Chatting With AT&T’s Christopher Baccus

I know that on Saturday night I stated I would post on Sunday about AT&T and Intel,  continuing on the theme of major corporations arriving on Empire Avenue.   Honestly,  I slept very late,  gorged on Easter ham and did not type so much as a syllable except in chatting.   This morning’s news is that Christopher Baccus,  AT&T’s social media director has joined us in the #SocialEmpire group on Facebook and is chatting with us about AT&T’s participation on Empire Avenue.   Like Scott Monty on Saturday,  Baccus  comes across and genuinely friendly and seems as excited to be participating on Empire Avenue as the members of the #SocialEmpire group.

I have to confess that I have at times been intimidated by corporate vice-presidents.   Usually they have been two or  more levels above me,  the sort of guys who have corner offices, secretaries and never socialize with (as it is always, often condescendingly called) “the team”  outside of the annual picnic or Christmas party.  People you sometimes receive e-mails from, but rarely if ever send e-mails to.  (If you understand office politics and want to continue working there.)  So it was really neat for me Saturday and this morning to hang out and chat a bit with Scott and Christopher.    Where Scott took some pains to stress that Ford is not trying to change the game,  and came across as extremely well-briefed and prepared for interacting with the citizens of Empire Avenue,  Christopher presented himself more as  “we’re (AT&T) just new here and are still figuring out how to engage and get to know all of you.”    I found it rather charming, frankly.

Clearly it remains to be seen how well big corporations will fare in the intensely person to person milieu of Empire Avenue and the associated Facebook group.   It is also not yet at all apparent how well these companies will be able to get their dividends up in sync with the very high share prices they have quickly risen to  (my 200 shares in (e)ATT have appreciated by more than 10K in less than three days).   But if Scott and Christopher are representative of the people who will be playing for these huge corporations and if they continue to hang out, chat and engage with their shareholders,  I do believe these corporations may well be able to make some friends and succeed in the social networking stock trading game.

It Isn’t A One Way Street

It was exciting.   When I heard from Frederic Denomme that Ford– the huge car manufacturer– had just listed itself on Empire Avenue,  I admit that I rushed over and bought a few shares.   And then I thought about it for a few minutes and  bought a few more and a few more and within a couple of hours I was maxed out with 200 shares in (e)FORD.   I also bought 200 shares in (e)INTEL— another big name that suddenly appeared on the Avenue late last week.   As of this writing,  it’s not clear what kind of dividends these huge companies will pay.    Given the .01 div per 1 share price ratio that most sophisticated Empire Avenue users apply when evaluating shares,  Ford would need to pay off about  .50/ per share to be a good value and I’m not at all sure they can do that.   At any rate I am thrilled with the enormous growth the stocks have quickly accomplished–  I’m up over 4,000e  between the two companies’ stocks.

The problem that big companies run into on social networking is that they are very rarely prepared to enter into two way back and forth communication with other users.   Partly this is a question of resources–  if a company has 30,000   “friends” it would take not merely a full time employee but a full time department to remember their spouse’s names,  inquire after their children and keep up a social chit chat.   Their real life (as opposed to EAv) shareholders would never stand for it.   But it also seems to me that the cost of genuine engagement is not what stops most companies.  Shannon Morgan  has talked about how challenging it is to get even the relatively small companies she is a consultant for  to understand that a blog is not just another place to distribute your press release.  So I do give executives like Ford’s Scott Monty props for his presence on the Ave and for putting (e)FORD and (e)LINCOLN into the game.

I have to wonder, however,  how well  Monty and his Ford team can do in the one on one socializing that is the essence of Empire Avenue and which the most successful players on the Ave inevitably excel at.   It’s not enough just to buy shares in your investors– while Ford does appear to have bought into some of the  “big name”  (usually in other words “copy/paste”) “social media experts”,  they have not as yet thought to make an investment in (e)LIBDRONE,  although as I say I am maxed out in their shares.    It will be very interesting to see if major corporations can learn to play in this currently popular sandbox.   It’s possible that they can.  However it is also possible that via investment or other means they will manage to pressure (e)DUPS (Empire Avenue founder and chief executive Duleepa Wijayawardhana) and the Empire Avenue team to make the game a bit friendlier to major sponsors,  rather than as at  present to the unusually sociable average Joe.   I will not even speculate as to how well Ford and the other major brands flocking to the Ave will fare.   But I am thrilled to have a front row seat to watch and find out.