E-commerce Link: Demystifying Social Computing
Social computing technologies are an increasingly vital part of consumers’ lives. Industry analyst Forrester Research reports that use of social networking sites grew a whopping 90 percent from 2006 to 2007; in the same time period, blog consumption grew by 83 percent and the number of consumers relying on RSS feeds to distill content jumped fully 300 percent. Consumers are talking to each other.
Ubiquitous social computing means it’s easier than ever to publish views through blogs and online video and to find like-minded others online. And as consumers interact, they tend to place less trust in messages delivered by merchants. Forrester also found that 36 percent of consumers don’t want e-mail even from their favorite retailers—but 68 percent said they trust “others like them” to make sound product recommendations, and 56 percent said friends and family were their top brand influencers. This shift, if managed wisely, can be leveraged by merchants to build their businesses.
You see, the question isn’t whether customers are talking about your brand—it’s how and where. Merchants must join the conversation or else risk being sidelined. But take heart: Social computing can actually be a cost-effective means of driving acquisition and conversion. To survive—and thrive—in the brave new world of social computing, take the following steps.
1. Survey the landscape
The technologies and tools for social computing are inexpensive. Wise merchants are investing time and human resources where customers are most likely to respond. Tools like social networking sites, vlogs, RSS feeds and podcasts are good places to start. Social computing is all about putting power in the hands of your customers—and that starts by letting their existing habits dictate your strategy.
Brand monitoring firms track where your key audience is spending time online. Or, for a less costly alternative, consider using the following do-it-yourself tools:
• IceRocket.com—for searching blogs and MySpace activity
• Technorati.com—for searching blogs
• Qoogle—for searching YouTube video content
• Google Alerts—alerts that e-mail notices of new articles, blog posts and Web content that contain the keywords you choose.