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Think of a game of doubles tennis. There is a team of two players at each end of the playing court with well defined governance around how those players compete and play to win. Now imagine that same tennis court where there are say five or six players at each end and where more than one ball can be in play at any one time. But how does this game work - who provides the governance and how – and who wins the game?
So it is with social business. Consumer to consumer activity is not just changing the rules of the game – it is shaping an entirely new game.
Wherever we look, there is an increasing number of consumers who are embracing digital activity in their everyday lives. People are using social networks to find everything from train times, restaurants to friends. There is a global trend of people embracing the “now” in all how they consume products and services. Consumers are now increasingly mobile and therefore demand information on the go regarding how they socialise, shop and get entertainment.
According to a recent Nielsen survey, some 9 million Australians now interact via social networks. Content sharing is the most popular activity. In addition, some 2 in 5 Australians interact with companies via social networks.
But end users and consumers have a blunt message. The opinions of family and friends are seen as the key in providing trusted information. For example, in the recent IBM Smarter Consumer Study, some 51% of consumers surveyed said they trust their friends and relatives in their buying decisions rather than retailers or manufacturers. This represents a major shift in power.
The consumer to consumer connection has become crucial, and represents a new wave of change. Organisations like McDonalds and Starbucks have already seen this trend and are addressing it as part of their strategies.
Mobility and mobile devices represent key enablers of these changes. If the lines in front of the Apple Store for the new iPad 2 are anything to go by, devices that enable online browsing on the go are well in demand in Australia. Globally, by the end of 2011, it is expected that smart phones and tablets will overtake PC shipments. In Australia, our 3G penetration rate is at about 66% with a growth of 29% from 2009. The Smart Consumer Study referred above highlights a 70% increased in the use of mobile devices in just a six month period last year. The new personal computer, the smart phone, creates a new level of constant connectivity.
The growth in mobile is being assisted through the Social Media, but this is not just Facebook and Twitter. Other networks are readily being used as a means of finding and communicating with people. Apps and new online social networks are such as Geominium informs the user where their friends are, what events are in their area, as well as helping them discover local items of interest such as restaurants. This new wave of constant connectedness is shaping a new norm in how we communicate and interact. This is also changing how we use our mobile handsets.
A recent study highlighted that 59% of consumer mobile activity was web/web apps, games and social networking and only 27% on telephony based services such as text, skype and phone. This trend indicates that mobiles are increasingly becoming more than a means of communicating with our microworld, but is increasingly being used to communicate to the macroworld in all online spaces through various applications and social networks – and it shows no signs of slowing down!
So what does this many-to-many game mean for organisations? Three challenges are in play:
This new customer landscape of offers a unique growth opportunity for Australian companies to capitalise on this new demand and leverage it to create a sustainable competitive advantage.
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