I'm on the tail end of my week in London and I was able to sit down with colleges Stefan Stern and Robin Hamman where we had a brief but rich discussion on the idea of being a social business (podcast here). We discussed quite a few things from emerging start up models to communications in a social age, but one of the things I brought up was the mainstreaming of participatory economics. My theory is that social technologies and the online behaviors they enable leads to more participation from what use to be static audiences and "consumers". But as a result of this, a demand is generated for participation to be reciprocated from business and brands. If this is true (and I think the needle is moving in that direction) does big business have the supply to meet the demand of participation?
[That's a Reblog, i.e. reference to another person's blog, in case you aren't getting this interface which isn't so clear.]
I don't think the needle is moving precisely because not only big businesses, small businesses don't have the supply of customer service to meet the demand. And that's all social media is -- customer service.
Imagine if you were at the ad sales meeting and somebody say, "Hey, Stan, let's sink half a million dollars next quarter into MORE customer service with more staff time and more design work and not have any return!" Everybody would say, "um, no."
But if Fred says "Hey, Stan, let's sink half a million dollars next quarter into this cool new social media where we can get people talking about our brand willingly for free and spread virally!" everybody would say, "Wow, sounds great, let's do it."
It's like the Friskies campaign with even a virtual world for my cat (OK, my cat proved supremely uninterested, so I played the games in it).
I stayed on the mailing list and I will go on clicking on the ads, but here's where things went wrong for me:
o the game disappeared and no new ones came
o no more coupons like there was for the first few months a year ago, so what's the point?
o no tips corner for my real questions like "why is my cat hissing all the time dammit?" but inane anodyne stuff like "be careful not to put your Christmas tree bulbs too low for your cat to play with" and retarded stuff like "your cat is so over-stimulated by the holidays with stuff like bulbs hanging low that it needs some down time".
In short, Friskies, which I will go on buying anyway for my fur-covered pigs, can't be bothered to create a community and cut me some coupons, either, because both would be TOO EXPENSIVE in time and money. And that's ok. I don't need Friskies to be my friend. That's why social mediafication of Friskies was maybe a bad idea unless somebody had some extra millions to blow on entertainment.
That's the dirty little secret hiding behind social media after you peel off all the social media guru parasites and widget engineers on top of it, and get below the 10 percent in the power line who will "interact". The rest want entertainment and coupons or even more, a permanent interactive community that seriously follows up on the brand with CUSTOMER SERVICE.
So no, neither big nor small business has the supply of CUSTOMER SERVICE for the CUSTOMER SERVICE STATE as Ed Castronova called it in "The Flight to the Virtual World".
P.S. See Armano's slides to the left called "Social Media is Dead" lol.