Here’s a provocative perspective on what the web is, exactly. The author, Paul Ford, talks about different forms of media in the sense of what fundamental question they answer.
It’s deceptively simple. For example, “I'm bored, and I want to get out of the house and have an experience, possibly involving elves or bombs. Where do I go?” Of course, as you already know, the answer is: a movie. (Where is the movie with elves and bombs, is my question. But I digress.)
For the web, though, that fundamental question is: Why wasn’t I consulted? “The web is not, despite the desires of so many, a publishing medium. The web is a customer service medium,” as he puts it.
He’s directing some of his argument to publishers who are trying to recreate familiar elements of book or magazine publishing online, but his points are compelling as all sorts of industries grapple with whether and how to use the Web to actually engage with their client base in a way that’s just as immediate as anything that’s happening in-person. There’s no point in, say, setting up a Facebook page for your product, and then letting it get just as stale as, say, that microsite you set up in 2007 and perhaps haven’t updated since. Because on Facebook, you don’t get to decide when the content is final – your customer does; your community does.
Even in business-to-business environments, the community of users are connecting with each other more and more, because that’s what people are doing as consumers of other products and services. The open source movement which so many people in technology are growing up on is a great example of this. And in consumption of media, a quick glance around Tumblr will show you the extent to which people are engaging with content in ways that only owners of content could do so just a few years ago – this strange way of looking at movies is one example.
Do you search a product or service online before you use it? Do you give credence to what users in an online forum say about it? This is what your customers are doing as well.
None of this means you necessarily need a Twitter account to reach B2B customers on a 24/7 basis. It does mean that this kind of porousness in our businesses is here to stay, and is more and more part of our culture and expectations, in all directions.
How are you using the Web as a real customer service medium? More importantly, how are your customers or clients?