What are the roles of the customers?

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 with 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 SocialText, 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 the 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 most 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.

The New Role of Influence

Consider a typical conversation on the Social Web, say a potential customer who is reading a review and talking with a friend over Twitter about it. That review was written by someone, and it was written for a reason. Who that person is think profile plus connections provides a clue as to the motivation behind the review. Further, that review is the result of an experience that is itself driven by a business process

Looked at in a macro sense, a potential customer reading a review is actually looking at the net result of a business process through the eyes of someone with an identifiable motive or point of view. If that motive or point of view can be understood, you can sort out the real business impact of the review (if any) and then apply this knowledge to your business and adjust as necessary your own business processes that are creating the experiences that drove that review. In other words, knowing who is talking about you (and not just what they are saying) is fundamental to understanding and then optimizing your processes to produce the conversations you want, and addressing and correcting the processes that drive the conversations you’d rather not see.

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