I'm happy to be among the people in the Philly area who got to know Frank Eliason a little bit while he was doing the whole @comcastcares thing, and am thrilled to wish him well as he leaves for a new job at Citigroup.
Here are some notes I made about Frank not long after we met for a long lunch interview in Comcast's great lunchroom in the clouds. (They were part of a story pitch which, sadly, didn't sell. Probably would have been better on the blog in the first place, but anyway):
* @Comcastcares: About 5,700 followers in January ['09] to more than 32,000 right now [Oct. '09] [to 44,700 today]
* Went from one guy and a Tweet to a team of a dozen staffers who field customer service issues, @comcastcares is fast becoming the go-to case study on good social media business practice;
* Most recently, Brian Roberts' praise of Eliason as "Famous Frank," the man who "changed the culture of our company," is about to make him a big star. He won't be around here too much longer. He's going national, taping interviews, flying out to preach the @comcastcares model at conferences etc.
* There's a compelling personal backstory: Eliason's first encounters with social media came in 2000, when a joyful proud-Dad blog he started for the birth of his first child became a place of shared public grief when the child was born premature and later died of cancer. http://www.sitedreamer.com/
gia/ and http://www.eliasonfamily.info/ Eliason_Family/Welcome.html
* He and his wife have since welcomed two daughters, and Eliason says he learned through the blogging about the individual-communal experience the internet allows.
* Eliason is accessible and chatty in his Tweets and more importantly, the actual customer-service follow-through is there. Like, it's not just cutesy: There's a whole team of folks from Comcast (Bonnie, etc.) on Twitter not only responding to complaints directed at them, but using search tools to seek out the people who are bitching into the Twitter wind, and try to get their problems fixed.
As for Frank, he's just a cool and interesting guy, a young working Dad without a fancypants degree who seems to have stepped right onto the pulse point of something big. In conversation with me he called his own story a "Social Media Fairytale," and it really is.
Nearly a year later, you can't swing a dead cat on Twitter without hitting a job listing for a "social media manager" from a company that essentially wants someone to do what @comcastcares did, even if they can't exactly explain what that is.
I'm coming up on three years on Twitter, and from what I can see of the Philly-area Twitterverse, folks describing themselves as social media experts, mavens, rock stars etc. are a dime a dozen. Guys who have actually used social media to do something quantifiable? Precious few.
Frank Eliason is one.
(Annie Heckenberger is another, but that's a post for another day.)
There's a farewell video from Comcast folks here, worth watching to the end to see Ralph Roberts' undoubtedly hand-tied bowtie. Adorbs!