Corporate Communities, Transparency and Competitiveness

20 Feb

What do consumers want? TRANSPARENCY, AUTHENTICITY AND COLLABORATION.

When do they want it? NOW…IN REAL TIME!

How do they want it? ONLINE, OFFLINE, ON THE MOVE, EVERYWHERE.

Why should corporations pay attention? BECAUSE HAPPY CUSTOMERS ARE GOOD CUSTOMERS.

So how can corporations use social media effectively in order to provide a relevant, engaging experience for consumers instead of seeming like they are simply touting their own horn?

The idea of corporate websites already seems outdated. Of course, major companies need to have an online presence, but consumers no longer need to perform a directed search in order to find out about a company’s products or best practices. Jeremiah Owyang succinctly explains how the evolution of peer feedback — through blogs, social networks, rating sites, etc. — has made traditional web marketing irrelevant. In order to stay on (or ahead) of the curve, companies need to approach marketing as a collaborative effort with consumers, as opposed to a two-way “we’re selling/you’re buying” paradigm.

As a specific example, Jeff Jarvis discusses Starbucks’ development of MyStarbucksIdea.com, an open forum in which customers make suggestions, other customers can vote on and discuss them, and then Starbucks can track which ideas are gaining popular support. Starbucks employs “idea partners” that follow and moderate discussions, and then work to implement customer suggestions on a corporate basis. Not only does such interaction promote transparency and authenticity, but it allows a company and it’s customers to grow together organically. If a customer idea succeeds or fails, the participating customers hold some accountability. It also allows for product innovation, customer loyalty, and evangelism by key customers across networks, which holds massive power for expanding and sustaining business.

While any forward-thinking company needs to have constant consumer engagement, I wonder how such transparency could affect a company’s competitiveness. Is too much transparency possibly dangerous for a company who wants to maintain an unique brand? If discussion is open to all consumers — including competitors — how does (or can) a company “own” consumer ideas posted within a corporate context to prevent poaching? Can consumer suggestions be considered intellectual property? This would be an interesting discussion point with our upcoming speakers.

3 Responses to “Corporate Communities, Transparency and Competitiveness”

  1. Lloyd February 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Interesting. I wonder how a brand might do damage control with their website? I’m talking ’bout you Toyota and Tiger Woods.

  2. Christopher February 21, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    You made some great points. I think that what lies under all of this customer participation is customer loyalty. Even if competitors are infiltrating your site looking for ideas and stealing them, there is no assurance that they would in fact benefit from offering these new ideas.

    • Andy February 21, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

      I’m not so sure that competitors would get no benefit from taking consumer ideas. Realistically, many companies offer very similar products. Suggestions made to one company will likely apply to their rival’s products as well. I do hear what you’re saying about how important the loyalty is, but companies have secrets for a reason…

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