Consumer 3.0, a.k.a. chaotic mutual dependency

Everybody keeps talking and writing about 2.0 this and 2.0 that: and, often, it is just a way to find new customers for old products.

But, when it comes to consumers, I think that we are on 3.0.

The first version was the passive consumer who is on the receiving end of structured communication to “push” products and services, while 2.0 was the consumer interacting with the market through organizations, consumer associations, and the like.

If you follow my twitter (@robertolofaro), you have seen once in a while links to articles on market evolution: the XXI century and its daily two-way exchange between the market and the producers is creating a new kind of consumer.

But, before discussing the “Consumer 3.0”, a small digression on this numbering, originally popularized in IT from the way Big Blue (IBM) informed its customers when one of its software evolved: first digit, something close to a radical changing, requiring a rethinking of its use; the digit after the dot, for significant changes that do not require real evolutions.

I remember that in the 1980s a large customer complained about Oracle, for changing the digit after the dot, while instead they introduced significant changes, requiring major work.

Most of the proponents of the “2.0 whatever” imply that the “1.0” will disappear: but, in IT as in real life, this is not the case- both have to coexist for some time- and, when you shift from IT to social customs, probably forever.

P.S. As more than once I was told that the articles were too long, I will, as an experiment, stick for the next two weeks to the formula Max (250+500+250), i.e. no more than 1000 words, divided in three sections (excluding the title of each section): current status, main discussion of my thesis, future plans.

P.P.S. No, this post-post-scriptum and the post-scriptum are not part of the article…

P.P.P.S. And now that you ask “how”- well, each article will be self-contained, and if needed, will refer to other articles- published or to be published.


FROM PUSH TO BIOFEEDBACK In the “push” model, suppliers identified or created audiences for whatever they were providing; with the “biofeedback” one, you have a constant interaction between the audience and the suppliers- and between micro-communities within the audience.

MICRO COMMUNITIES Internet enables new “borderless micro communities”- and each member of the audience can belong at any time to more than one: but the communication also between members is focused on influencing, not informing.

EMBEDDED ADVERTISEMENT What in the old time was campaigning, on the Internet is part of the information: can you really spot the border between advertisement and information? Or who is a real fan or just a “hired user” recommending a product/service/cause?

PERMANENT ADVOCACY News media used to clearly mark anything that was sponsored or paid by an advertiser: but consumers can advocate products- or use new media to influence poll-driven suppliers the products that they want.

FEED-BACK ORIENTATION Customers now are not necessarily waiting to share their experience with you: they can anyway find somebody else listening.

ONE CUSTOMER, MULTIPLE VOICE Sometimes, your customers will not have just one voice- they will pretend to represent a small group- actually, all fake identities (don’t laugh- I saw this often- and it considered “fair game”, to balance “corporate interests”).

OVERLAPPING LOYALTIES There are nowadays so many “virtual word-of-mouth” venues, that any consumer is able to lower the cost (time, money) of loyalty to any individual community or cause- therefore, they can be “loyal” to you- and your competitors.

SOURCING INFORMATION Consumers never really trusted suppliers, unless they knew them for generations; but online sometimes they give to anybody the same trust that they would have given 20 years ago to a major newspaper.

PROPAGANDA 2.0? You can create fake/real information, fake/real fans- but while in the past you, the company, had this opportunity, nowadays anybody can do it: and territoriality and borders are meaningless.

INFLUENCING REALITY It is becoming an art practiced by any online user- sharing half-truths, that are then relaunched by other users online, who add their own interpretation, eventually spreading something that is sometimes as far as possible from the original statement.

FROM A PIRAMYD TO A CLOUD In the end, we shifted from few, controllable and manageable information sources, to a constant background noise- and often this “cloud” influences the news professionals.

DON’T DISTORT INFORMATION Anybody can learn for free and use the means to diffuse information online: but manipulating information backfires- but, difference with the past, any misbehaviour can resurface at any time.

FROM INFLUENCING TO COOPTING 1.0 to 2.0: the past- you thinking about the customer, and then getting the customer happy to be on board- but with channels that you at least monitored.

FROM COOPTING TO MUTUAL DEPENDENCY 2.0. to 3.0: it is not a dialogue with the customers- it is a dialogue aggregating the customers as your counterpart- on a temporary basis, not as an institution that you can negotiate with.

Evolving relationships

NUMBERS DO NOT MATTER It costs just some time, and can counter-balance a multi-million dollar campaign- look what happened to some large company when they defied the power of the “soccer moms”- e.g, on

OLD TIMES, NEW TIMES In Southern Italy, in 1972, national TV channels did not show what was happening in the streets-and it was invisible outside the word-of-mouth; recently, a Governor developed a grass-root candidacy: and he was elected, defying his own political party, that has selected somebody else.

BEYOND WHISTLEBLOWERS Thanks to the Internet, any consumer with expertise available worldwide is accessible to fellow consumers- in real-time, often from within the industry: or also from competitors through “mediators”.

DELEGATING CONSUMER POWER 1.0 was through political representation (but Bernays showed the example of Women’s rights, more a 3.0); 2.0 was through consumer associations and trade unions; 3.0 has neither organization nor structure- it is pure adhocracy.

CHAOS THEORY Information online, once started, cannot be stopped- as there are no “outlet” to file a complaint against; and the lack of a “structural integrity” risks creating information flows that spiral out of control.

RIDE THE WAVE The speed of diffusion of any (dis)information and its long-term permanence in the cloud makes impossible to manage the same safeguards: think about PR 2.0.

CUSTOMERS AND THE CLOUD Internet is closer to the “neural network” that is inside our head than any other communication network- fire one neuron, and through dendrites multiple parallel paths are activated.


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