What is the role of the customer in marketing?

The New Role: Social Interactions

The social in Social Web implies more than technology, more than the networks where people post photos and review books: It’s less about the what and more about how, why, and among whom” that distinguishes the Social Web from earlier, transactional online technologies. The term “social” refers to the ways in which people connect friends, requiring a two-way acknowledgment of a relationship are different than more casually associated followers, for example.

The term social also provides insight into why they are connecting perhaps to learn something, to share an experience, or to collaborate on a project. As such, a great place to start learning about the Social Web and its connection to business is with the basic relationships that are created between participants in social networks and social applications, and to then look at the types of interactions between them that follow.

People Want to Make Friends

Friending the mutually acknowledged linking of profiles within or across defined communities is the cornerstone of collaborative social interaction. Just as in real life, the various relationships that exist between profiles (people) often imply certain aspects of both the nature of the expected interactions and the context for them. Relationships at a club or church are different in context and therefore in expectation from relationships in a workplace, for example.

When someone elects to follow another on Twitter, or inside an employee network built on a platform like Social Text, there is likewise an expectation of value received in exchange for the follower relationship, all within the context of the network in which this relationship has been established. People create relationships to exchange value, at some level, with others in and through that relationship.

Club Membership Brings Expectations

In the preceding discussion of relationships and interactions and their importance in the development of a strong sense of shared purpose within a community, left aside was the question of how the social norms or rules of etiquette are established and maintained within a community.

Cyberbullying, flame wars, and the general bashing of newbies clearly work at cross-purposes with almost any online community development effort. In the design of any social interaction be it as simple as posting on Twitter or as complex as driving innovation in an expert community the policies that define and govern the conduct of participants are of utmost importance.

Customer Relationships: CRM Gets Social

In the traditional sales cycle, CRM (customer relationship management) forms a data-driven understructure that powers an overall customer life cycle. Based on historical transactions, the insights into what a customer may need next, or when a particular customer may be ready for an upsell, offers are generated based on past transactional data and the larger purchase or use patterns that exist across the entire customer base.

On the Social Web, where the customer is now becoming an integral part of the sales process, CRM is being adapted to support this new role of the customer. Think here specifically about the Social Feedback Cycle and the role of a brand ambassador, or an advocacy program that plays out in social media. In each of these, there is a specific development process from tire kicker to car owner to a loyal customer to brand advocate that can be understood in terms of available behavioral data. Posts on social  Customer Relationships: CRM Gets Social sites, collected through social analytics tools, for example, can provide real clues as to where in the ascension to brand advocate (or descension to a detractor) a particular individual is at any given moment.

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