Multiple Dimensions of Consumer Participation

A while back I wrote a post called Millions of Consumers, Millions of Channels about the upcoming shift to social advertising and social commerce. My simple observation is that we are moving to a world where every one of us can easily become a distribution channel. The shift from thousands of distribution channels to millions of distribution channels is something brands are going to need a lot of help with.

Over the holidays, one of the comments to the post struck me as needing to be raised to the top level. It comes from Vladimir Dimitroff, a London-based friend of mine with a long career in figuring out how to best develop customer and stakeholder relationships. Below is the full text of his comment.

Great post! In a drill-down, you can add to your thinking the multiple dimensions of consumer participation (isn’t it time we stop calling them consumers? 

– Consumer as communication channel: viral in its purest form just carries over a many to many channel an essentially one to many message from a business to its audience.

– Consumer as message author: recommendations and referrals are where the ‘consumer’ is already an ‘employee’ of the business, effectively working for the Marketing department and generating the message in addition to carrying it.

– Consumer as a transaction participant: where the business has found a mechanism to engage the consumer in more than just passing a message, in ‘closing the sale’ (one more hat for our poor ’sumer – now he also works in the Sales department), processes orders and (why not) takes PayPal payments.

– Consumer as co-creator of the product: from participation in product design R&D with feedback, ideas and recommendations, to UGC, particularly where the ‘product’ is the message he spreads. Two more jobs: in the R&D and in the Production department of our business.

– Finally, consumer as Investor: already an insider of our business, he confidently buys our stock (and recommends that, too). Clever companies find ways to engage them even better in the share ownership through dedicated schemes. (I think I coined the ‘investomer‘ word back in ‘98-99, but can’t be sure, I see evidence of usage at about the same time elsewhere).

This convergence of stakeholder roles is perhaps the most significant aspect of the ‘2.0′ phenomenon and the radically new business and economy thinking. Companies whose visionary management are able to view the world in this way will become leaders in their field and set examples for the entire global economy.

Needless to say, the most interesting ‘things’ to watch in the startup and venture space are business models that harness one or more (the more the merrier) of the above modes and roles.

About Simeon Simeonov

I'm an entrepreneur, hacker, angel investor and reformed VC. I am currently Founder & CTO of Swoop, a search advertising platform. Through FastIgnite I invest in and work with a few great startups to get more done with less. Learn more, follow @simeons on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
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4 Responses to Multiple Dimensions of Consumer Participation

  1. Don Jones says:

    Interesting concept. I run a venture capital database and I’m beginning to experiment with the concept of giving away more valuable content, via willing “consumer channels. ” It may end up being an “awareness” enhancer or maybe more. We’ll see.

  2. kuma says:

    we as consumers becoming distribution channels- how true! We leaving comments on the internet about how much we like/ dislike something and other fellows would listen and determine the market for one product. We can help sell and advertise.

  3. Kara says:

    Youtube is a very sucessful example of taking users’ feedbacks and advices for improvements of the sites, users can simply upload a video like they always do, as a response to changes in the youtube site etc The feedback process is easy, transparent and no hassle. But feedbacks for google yahoo and apple and motorola online websites seem so troublesome. I wonder how they develop like customers want them to be.They’re missing out on valuable opinions.

  4. Pat says:

    good point that consumers are also co-creators. One example is t-shirt rpoduction. Youtube stars like smosh and julia nunes have t-shirts selling and the latter actually invites youtube users to submit designs. That ensures the message that there’ll be tshirt sales get across clearly and nice and consumers will get the 1st handed info striaghtaway who designed the tshirt and what it’s like etc, the singer can avoid making tshirt that attract no one and standardized.

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