Businesses don’t shape business any longer. Users do. I’m of course referring to the online world and am sure this will extend the tangible world. Some would argue this has always been the way, with businesses putting things out and then users dictating what is popular. Today’s paradigm is a little different with businesses following users examples. Examples are:
- Users on MySpace- Karmaloop on MySpace
- Users on Twitter – Skittles on Twitter
- Users on Second Life – Businesses follow
Users were there first and I’ve referred to this as the corporate social graph. For most businesses, their participation has been reactive. Customers are subconsciously revealing new business models and marketing techniques. For the most part businesses have never been able to get out of their own way and now they are not simply going where the users are; they are treating customers like partners.
I think this is partly the premise of Seth Godin’s book Tribes. (I say think only because I could not read it. I can’t get past Seth’s writing style. When I read it I feel like I’m trying to get a coat to stay on the back of a glossy wooden chair and it keeps falling on the floor.)
Apple is the one exception to this rule and yet, although they have a rabid fan base they also have no real online social community. iRovr is an iPhone based social network and it’s compete numbers look anemic compared to the total iPhone users.
This dynamic makes most businesses feel like ther’re chasing this emorphous mass that keeps changing shape and neeeds. Marketing folks; welcome to it.