I’ve been an Flip Camera owner for about a year now. I’m actually on my second one. I started with a 60 minute Flip Mino and then sold it and upgraded to a 120 minute Ultra HD a few months ago. The great thing about The Flip cameras is the simplicity. Fits in your pocket, simple interface, drag and drop video files, easy upload to the web. The simplicity in a few minor areas, though, is also a pain. The 2x zoom is limiting and when you hold it at arms length (which is exactly what you want to do when you want to be in the shot) and it crops tight on your mug. There’s no Flip Camera yet that allows you to attach a wide angle lens. Fortunately, people on the web are quickly finding their own solutions to the problem and helping each other out by uploading YouTube videos and writing blog posts etc about how to make the camera do what they want. Do a quick Google search for “Flip Wide Angle Lens” to see what I mean. There are tons of people out there who are happily duct taping and super gluing wide angle lenses on their cameras to get what they want.
Brian Shaler‘s come up with a particularly elegant solution using a cheap magnetic lens converter…
What strikes me as odd here is that Cisco hasn’t seemed to have caught on. They might be listening, but they certainly haven’t made changes to their product based on the huge volume of “hack your flip” YouTube videos out there that tell a consistent story about what people want from their cameras. Why the hell wouldn’t you just slap a cheap lens adapter attachment on the front of one of the higher priced models and sell cheap wide-angle lenses on your site?
There’s a great lesson here about listening to the web and building community around products the right way. Connecting with your customers and building strong, loyal communities starts with understanding how people are actually using your product, not about getting them to conform to the way you want them to use it. If people want your product to do something that it doesn’t already, they will find work-arounds and share them on the web, which expose the short comings of your design AND connect your users in places where you can’t control the conversation. If I were Cisco, I’d seriously consider creating social spaces online for their hacker community to share their content. There’s obviously a large segment of people who are so happy with their Flips that they’re willing to SUPER GLUE bits and pieces on the front and keep on shooting away. If you give those individuals a place to find each other, they all find the best hack, and they’ll be happier customers for it. And guess what…if Cisco joined in the conversation in these spaces and reached out to their hackers, empathized and told them that they’re working on the issue, they could direct those individuals to sign up for a free email notification list where they could find out about new product releases and Cisco would suddenly have a hyper targeted group of loyal customers to tap on launch days that they could easily please with special launch day offers etc etc.
Smart companies treat feedback groups (like the Flip Hackers) as an asset that can be nurtured, developed and used to their advantage. Strong, loyal communities don’t have to start out as die hard fans.