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Edward Cotton

Sure, not everyone wants to participate.

It all depends on the incentive and the creative complexity of the challenge. Make it too hard and you will limit consumer contribution, but with internet tools, it's now possible to put creative power in the hands of mass consumers, allowing them to participate in a way that's fun and easy.

tribeless

The applicability of the ideas found in Cluetrain and Open Source revolve around the amount of time, money or emotion required to do business with a business.

Indeed, it doesn't make any sense to invest your time in businesses for which one has no significant invesment in - be it time, money or emotion.

However, if a business requires any significant investment from a consumer the game has simply changed.

To be sure, your company's word simply doesn't matter anymore.

Alex Barnett

Here's a question. What % number would the guys at Vsente consider to be significant % in terms of the population reading blogs? Recent research shows that 1 in 10 are reading blogs at least monthly:

"The number and influence of blogs continues to rise," says David Schatsky, SVP of JupiterResearch, who points to a consumer survey conducted recently by his firm that shows that "11% of online consumers read blogs at least monthly, a number that is rising rapidly."

Source: http://econtentmag.com/Articles/ArticleReader.aspx?ArticleID=14437

And what are they reading, this growing blog-reading population? And do these 'consumers' want to engage in conversations. Or file complaints?

What are tens of millions people doing everyday at Yahoo Groups then? Or the gazillions of comments left by customers on 'gripe this' or 'love that' blog posts. 3 examples:

Starbuck Gossip blog: http://starbucksgossip.typepad.com/

...Or this guy who made a video(!) about a GE water cooler that he says sucks - http://www.blumpy.org/2005/09/02/gesucks.html. His post comes up #1 result in a search for the product on Google: a traditional product manager's nightmare - http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hs=cHD&hl=en&lr=&c2coff=1&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=GXCF20E&btnG=Search

...Or me complaining about Nameplanet customer service. http://blogs.msdn.com/alexbarn/archive/2005/05/14/417477.aspx

Do a search for Nameplanet. You'll find my gripe on the first results page...who's going to sign up after see that?

Just some examples. Plenty more if you look around. Here's a clue. Do a search for a brand and add the word blog. Try it. They are all there, fans and detractors being found and read - the conversations are happening.

Alex.

Mike Smock

Hi James. Thanks for continuing the dialogue...

The basic issue for vSente is the notion of "control" as in "putting the customer in control". We disagree that putting the customer in control is a good thing. We especially do not agree with tribeless's notion that "your company's word simply doesn't matter anymore".

The examples cited by James and Alex demonstrate new and in some cases innovative ways for customers to provide feedback. We embrace these methods as means for solicting customer input and participation. But these examples do not indicate that customers are now in control.

More importantly as Alex and others use these avenues to register feedback what happens when they get it wrong? Or the feedback is intentionally malicious? Or your company's reputation is unfairly attacked by a few "evangelical white-goo spitting" consumer vigilantes? Does the corporation sit back and do nothing?

As to Alex's question about % blog participation - we would be surprised if in the future 20% of American consumers actively participated/interacted at any meaningful level with their brands - whether through blogs, forums, web sites, contests, etc.

We here at vSente continue to look for one case study of an enterprise that has actually put the customer in control. A before, during and after case study that can demonstrate sustainable advantage.


tribeless

Hi Mike. If your willing to share it I'd love to get your take on the recent problems apple experienced with the release of the nano.

My own take is a significant number of customers who bought the nano were "invested" in their purchase and when the product didn't meet their expectations they took swift and decisive action in an open marketplace. In the process, these "invested" customers have influenced sales and policy in the process.

To me the message in this instance is clear; in an open and transparent marketplace "invested" consumers will play an ever increasing role in how they are marketed and sold to whether a company likes it or not. Furthermore, the opinions of peers will carry more weight than the marketing messages delivered by the coolest of companies like apple.

Mike Smock

Hi Tribeless,

Apple is an interesting example. The strength of Apple is the vision of Steve Jobs. Which doesn't seem to be influenced by customer participation. If he did he would of overturned his ban on Wiley Books and offered a screen replacement program for Nano buyers. Lance Ulanoff at PC Magazine had an interesting take on Apple here:

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/ZDM/story?id=1183482

More importantly, the main issue for us at vSente isn't customer participation or investment but the notion of putting the customer in control. Again, we disagree with putting the customer in control of anything in the enterprise. Participation? Sure! Investment? Sure! Input? Hell yes! Control? No!

tribeless

Hi Mike, For whatever reason I ended up on ebags.com earlier today and couldn't help but think of you and the gang at vSente while I was there.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you one of ebags propositions prominently featured on their homepage:


"Don't listen to us, listen to our customers"


That simple, that eloquent, that open.

At the time of this post Ebags lists having 704,901 reviews on 34,604 products. It will be interesting to see what kind of metrics they are listing a year from now.

tribeless

tribeless

James: A good piece on adage today. Ed

LUST FOR BUST AND OTHER TIPS FOR SAVVY ADVERTISERS
Learning to Cope With Mass Market Conversations You No Longer Control
October 31, 2005
By Jonah Bloom

http://adage.com/news.cms?newsId=46558

James Cherkoff

Interesting chat guys. I don't think there is any doubt that a significant and growing number of people want to participate with rather than just consume media - just to different degrees.

I tend to overstate the case to make my point, but I do think that sophisticated communities will grow around brands and companies whether they like it or not. Does that put those customer communities in total control ? No. Does it give them a lot of influence? Yes.

So a company can either batton down the hatches and let the conversation whirl around them unchecked or get involved and become a constructive participant. Not much of a choice really...

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