Wait… what? What is this, I thought. WD sending me spam?
Or someone pretending to be WD sending me spam?
It turns out the e-mail I received was a genuine e-mail (spam) from WD! Thank you for making that clear by posting that fairly large banner on top of the site.
I visited the site shortly after receiving the e-mail and there was no such banner as far as I can recall. I didn’t actually bother to log in and ask about this strange e-mail or read what others were saying. Now that I’m reviewing this e-mail again I can see it clearly for what it is.
So you made this announcement all the way back in March, on March 31? Then you decided to send a bulk e-mail to everyone on September 16? For a “user rewards” program that ends on September 30? From some
"mailva.rnmk.com" domain name? Don’t you have enough money to buy your own domain name you can use to send out bulk e-mails from?
If you wanted user engagement, you got it. Not the kind of engagement you wanted perhaps, but user engagement nonetheless. I am not a regular on these forums. I hardly ever visit this place anymore. I might as well close my account and narrow down my attack surface in case this site ever gets hacked. God forbid! I’m just a guy who made a few posts some years ago about some particular WD product when HDDs were still the main type of storage devices. This was before WD (and Seagate) admitted they have to start making SSDs to stay in business and stay relevant. Up until then, WD had been on a falling slope for some time, in terms of that human contact, like customer support, customer engagement, quick and official response to common problems and just taking pride in the brand name and its history. WD had pretty much distanced itself from its products, turning it into a cheap consumable and expendable product. This was true for other remaining HDD brands also. But I was very happy with WD disks for a very long time and often recommended the brand. I still have WD disks, including portable HDDs.
Nowadays I tend to spend my time reading, writing and thinking about, documenting and commenting on tech problems on sites that are not centered around any particular brand, sites like SuperUser and StackOverflow for example. As for disks, I always go for Samsung now when I need a new SSD and WD if I ever need a HDD for archive purposes.
I have always found it difficult to keep an interest in a product or brand centered sites like this one. This is the main reason I often find myself looking for a different forum, if I ever actively go looking for a place to discuss a product related problem, be it hardware or software. But most often, I don’t find the forum, it finds me. If I go google the problem, chances are I will find a highly active and technical discussion about it at some other, not brand specific forum.
So my message to WD is that you yourself have to be in your own forum if you want active participation from your users and customers. This is something I expect from all companies that have a community forum. If I ever come to a brand centered site like this, I am counting on having an engagement with company officials and product owners with expert knowledge. I am not looking for “me too” answers from users that are just as lost as I am.
Although, I know from experience that active participation even from less knowledgeable users can result in fruitful solutions if they put their heads together. Seagate’s firmware blunder from 2009 was one such example. Where Seagate kept quite about it for weeks before admitting, and leaving their customers to find a solution on their own, and they did. I never purchased a Seagate disk since, up until 3 years ago when I purchased a 4 TB external backup disk and then accidentally knocked it over from the top of the PC tower and it died. But this sort of user and customer driven solutions to problems are best done on other forums, because they can be a violation of terms if you go about hacking it to fix what is essentially the company’s own fault.
Also, you have to ask yourself, why would someone voluntarily engage so much in a brand centered forum? To collect points? For pride? Status? They are not supposed to be doing your job! Without pay! There has to be some kind of perks for them too. So I think the idea is right with this “user rewards” program, but the execution is highly questionable. You made a blunder on many points!
See!? Why only US and Canada? What about throwing a bone to those of us living in Europe? You don’t have customers in Europe? You have in effect revealed that most of your forum users are from US and Canada. Since I am from Sweden, I will not be participating anymore in your forums, because I am not welcome. Your gesture clearly indicates this. I thought WD was a global company? I’m sure you can sort out the logistics if you want to.
Just look at all those language specific forums at the top right: German, Spanish, Italian, French. You would think this relates to the countries where these languages are most spoken, but Spanish probably caters to central and south America, and French for francophone part of Canada. WD has office locations in UK and Belgium, but the offer does not extend to people in these countries. I’m not sure why there is a dedicated section for German and Italian? I don’t know about Italian, but for German, I would speculate it’s because Germans prefer German over English, and they are not very good at English (understandable when you use German all the time). Regardless of language, none of us “across the pond” are eligible for this offer.
I see this user touched on some of the points I also made above, and I agree on “related topic banter” making a living and active forum. There has to be some ground rules of course, but when the rules are too strict or too rigid, the forum quickly becomes boring and dies out.
This, I think, is also why brand centered forums don’t rank highly with users. The companies don’t have relaxed rules because they are too afraid of damaging the brand image. Without realizing, perhaps, that they are doing it to themselves. By these strict rules and by their own absence. If a discussion starts to go off course, they have to be there to steer the ship astray.