Friday, March 28, 2014

The social web demands partnership with customers - and a radical rethink on content

We're... seeing a much bigger shift in how people spend their time online. 
People are spending much more time interacting with other people, and much less time consuming content from websites. This shift is not about any one particular social network. It's about people connecting to each other online.
Paul Adams, user research lead for social in the UX team at Google.

That nugget is essential information in telling the story of our shift from trusting brands and branded content, to trusting each other. It is also a revelation in telling the story I am so keen on - that the web is for us to connect with; to enable us to self-organise.

Paul adds, in his presentation  The Real Life Social Network: "The social web is not a fad, and itʼs not going away. Itʼs not an add-on to the web as we know it today. Itʼs a fundamental change, a re-architecture."

This adds to the evidence offered in The 10 Principles of Open Business that rebuilding trust between brand and customer is not the realm of ads or branded content. We are turning to each other to find the truth behind the promises made by content of this kind. Content only has value so far as social media is concerned if it proves the promise the brand is making. If the web is indeed going through a fundamental change to become the social web what that means is that ALL online content must now pass that test.

Tell me what you like, but unless I can discover the truth of your promise from the experience of my peers, I'm not going to believe you. That's our reality. How is that impacting your next web design, your next social media content strategy?

The shift suggests that now all content (that will have any value in building trust, inspiring action, at least) has to be created by people like us.

Companies must think long and hard about this shift. It demands a rethink in the role of content and in your relationship with your customer. There is no mileage in simply telling people what you are. You will have to demonstrate what you are - prove it, giving them the experience of it, which they may choose to publish to their peers.

Organisations will have to be more transparent - more ready to involve customers in open innovation, more ready to share and connect - to collaborate

Customers become partners - not dumb recipients with wallets attached.

This in itself demands a more socially focused approach to CRM than ever before, a more customer-as-partner approach. It must answer how we create, discover, reward and scale advocacy; it must back the customer's judgment when they make referrals; it must understand the difference between Lifetime Value of a customer who couldn't care less about us but has little option but to trade with us and the Customer Referral Value of someone who loves us but - right now, for whatever reason - isn't buying from us; it must understand customer intent as well as map behaviours.

Ultimately it can solve many of these challenges by turning to the same social web that is causing the rethink because there - in our digital footprints - is the reality of our referrals, the clarity of our click-paths, the negative sentiment of our disapproval.

Reading this in total (and it occurs that separating acquisition from retention, loyalty and search cannot help matters) will help us make businesses more able to respond to, learn from and be led by their customers.

By the way - Paul didn't write his presentation about the shift to the social web this week (in fact, he's no longer at Google). He presented it at the Voices That Matter Web Design Conference in San Francisco in June... 2010.

Yes. I know. It probably is about time to act.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?