Start the digital dialogue

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at CERN in Switzerland in 1991, we wonder if he envisioned a future where consumers would harness its coalescent power to bargain down the price of virtually everything and allow the anatomy of organisations to be forensically examined, mouse click by mouse click.

The Power of Opinion
Taking just 10% of all UK health club members creates the capacity for nearly three million annual opinions to be posted in discussion forums, blogs and online communities on everything from the tepid swimming pool water during last night’s swim to a video rant on YouTube about an unnecessarily long notice period to quit a club.

Consumer Generated Content
Readers will know the above phenomenon as consumer generated content (CGC), but does this label really propel organisations to explore this exciting opportunity, or does it just wash-over as yet more fleeting tech-jargon? Assuming the latter, we propose re-defining ‘consumer-generated content’ to ‘consumer generated conversation’. This should resonate with organisations because it helps to visualise an active and spontaneous dialogue that is taking place today – more opinions have been posted in the last minute. It also conveys its viral characteristics; a trickle that can become a torrent if consumers smell deceit or disdain. Browse to where employees and customers vent their rage about ‘Dell Hell’. Just one member has written over 1,550 posts during the past four years, averaging a post a day. Perhaps, all they wanted was a replacement laptop battery. Consumers may rant and rage, but does it affect purchasing behaviour? It seems it does according to a recent YouGov social media for brands survey which found that six out of ten UK respondents would abandon a travel purchase if they read negative opinions. Slightly less for consumer electronics. Google your company now and get a sense for the on-line conversation taking place. If your sales pipeline is slowing perhaps it is clogged with negative consumer chatter.