From Twitter to a Social Pre-Commerce Networking Platform: A Look at the Future

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends on April 11, 2010

I read a study last week in MarketingVox that implies you can have too many followers on Twitter and there could be a diminishing return after 500 followers.

When I read studies like this, it reminds me how important it is to step back and look at what is actually happening.  Too often, we spend our time analyzing what is inside the box, not what is outside.

Here is my perspective on the revolution ahead of us.

The largest brands in the world have email marketing lists consisting of tens of millions of customers.  It is not crazy to say that a large company would have a list of 10 million people for a particular segment of their business.   The collective reach of, let’ say, 20 big brands, would dwarf Twitter today.  Not even a close contest.

However, these same brands suffer from “model fatigue”.  They all do the same thing.  They send you emails with highly promotional messages, hoping a certain percentage of us will click to purchase.  After all, when you are reaching millions, a small percentage of response still leads to very important revenue.  They flood our mailboxes at home with catalog after catalog.  They are probably as responsible as anyone for keeping the U.S. Postal Service afloat.

There is only one problem and it is huge.  Customers don’t want more promotional emails or catalogs.  They want real-time content on the topics they care about and they want the ability to ask questions and receive answers in real time.

Now we get back to Twitter, which isn’t doing too badly.  It’s 50 million plus users dig using the platform for customer service, e.g. ComCast Cares or flight information, e.g. JetBlue, or to buy shoes (Zappos) and so on.  Twitter is symbolic of the future of social commerce.  It will work because it provides a cost-effective way to reach people with relevant information in minutes in a manner that they prefer.  That is key….in a way they prefer.

Now, we all know it is a combination of our brains + technology that needs to evolve for breakthroughs to occur.  For example, it took us six years after Nokia introduced SMS for the B2B community for  Biz and Evan to form the equivalent online in Twitter.   And it will take another few years until the following happens:

In the future, companies will move to true preference-based marketing that is customer-driven.  Our customers will decide where they want to be reached (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SlideShare, a special forum or blog, or SMS) and they will let us know the exact type of content they want to receive and we will only deliver this content.  They will continually  decide if they want to keep receiving content or change what they get.  It will be 100% their call and we will earn the right to share our brands with them.   The email lists will be tossed in favor of this new way to stay in touch.

The result is that we will replace email as the lead way to reach people with a social pre-commerce networking platform.  It will replace catalogs as the best way to showcase a product.  And it will evolve exactly how customers want it to evolve.

It will be a revolution in how marketing occurs.  And it’s just a matter of time.

Do the math in your head.  Let’s say you run Travelocity and you have 50 million potential customers who may take a vacation each year.  10% of them decide to utilize your new customer-driven, preference based approach.  You now know what 5 million people want to do because they just told you what they care about and where you can reach them. All you have to do is commit to only reach them with the information they want where they want it.  And really stick to that.

Once you get moving, you will have re-engineered your offering to meet their exact needs and your conversion rate is likely to jump from a few percent to numbers you have never experienced, since you are delivering information to people who want it, a key factor in conversion.

Your costs of acquisition will drop as customers realize you mean it.  It will be easier than ever to share information and you’ll learn faster about what they want.

All I wonder is what is keeping us from doing this now?  It’s not technology.

All the best, Bob

By: Bob Pearson

Bob is the President of W2O Group, an independent network of digital communications and marketing companies. He is an author, frequent speaker and instructor for Rutgers center for management development. After the success of his book Pre-Commerce, Bob is currently working on a new book on the future of media titled Storytizing that will be available in 2014. Prior to W2O Group, Bob worked as VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell to develop the Fortune 500’s first global social media function -- an industry-leading approach to the use of social media, as highlighted in the best seller, GroundSwell. Before Dell, Bob was Head of Global Corporate Communications and Head of Global Pharma Communications at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland, where he served on the Pharma Executive Committee. He also serves on a variety of Boards in health and technology. Highlights include serving as an original member of the P&G digital advisory board and being appointed by the Governor of Texas to serve as chair and vice chair of the emerging technology fund for the State of Texas.

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Pre-Commerce Check out W2O Group President Bob Pearson's new book, Pre-Commerce, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. Now available for order on Amazon.com! http://amzn.to/bAmvFN. Join the conversation #precommerce.

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