Network Solutions scores with Twitter during Super Bowl

GoDaddy's Super Bowl ads may have gotten predictably saucy, but the response to them on Twitter Sunday night led to something the company couldn't have been expecting: A win for domain registration competitor Network Solutions.

GoDaddy's Super Bowl ads have a tradition of random T&A. That's really not news anymore, and in fact about three weeks ago the operators of GoDaddy's Twitter account invited followers to drop by and vote on which ad to run.

But Network Solutions has a Twitter presence too, run in part by Shashi Bellamkonda, that registrar's "Social Media Swami." When the GoDaddy ad made its appearance, Bellamkonda had a front-row seat to a lot of furious Tweets from GoDaddy customers who weren't thrilled with the image their registrar was presenting the world -- or the world beyond the teenage-horndog sphere, anyway.

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Bellamkonda's Super Bowl adventure started as a response to two annoyed GoDaddy customers, including PR doyenne KD Paine, saying that "when we mean enhancement we mean your business and nothing else." (It makes sense if you saw the commercial; if you didn't see the commercial...oh, we think you can guess.) But within a few minutes he'd contacted colleagues and put in motion something more concrete: A dedicated e-mail address for anyone wanting to switch from their registrar.

Bellankonda then set to work on sweetening the deal. By midnight, he had signoff on a "Twitter special" for a $10/year transfer/renewal deal. "Nothing was preplanned and I really appreciated the way my co-workers responded quickly to the opportunity and helped me reach people who were looking for an offer," he recounts.

Yes, it was Sunday. Yes, it was Network Solutions. "[In the] past few years we are a very different company and the customer voice is a big factor for us," Bellankonda Tweeted last night, and on Monday he reiterated that this is the new reality for Network Solutions and other companies. "The world today has changed. Companies can no longer hope to lob a message across high walls hoping that it reaches some part of the audience and not have a channel to get feedback on it."

It isn't just him sitting alone in his online "listening post," as he terms it; Network Solutions has a team of folks monitoring the social media, with him as simply the public fact. On the other hand, the conversation worked as a conversation, and the win did not go unnoticed at the office on Monday. "On a personal note, several people stopped us in the corridors and said we were doing a good job, and heard about our Twitter efforts from outside the company," he says.

So it looks like Network Solutions for the win, which leaves GoDaddy...? Very quiet, actually; as of late Monday night, there has been no update to the company's Twitterstream.

Bellankonda didn't comment directly on the competitor's choice, but says, "Once you start engaging in social media there is no going back! Companies should be prepared to hear both the good and bad. Sometimes you may not agree but having a conversation is good. We believe customer feedback is the main driver for a change within a company. I personally like this Tom Peters quote: 'Partners with the world 60/60/24/7 via electronic community building and entanglement of every sort. Crowdsourcing rules!'"

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