Are You a Consumer or a Customer?

Because we think we know

Of course, you could say "neither" — you're just browsing.

Online, consciously or unconsciously, you have some form of digital identity. Social media encourages a likely confusion between reporting, sharing, and reading news/information with the actual actions it takes to do. What we do virtually gets mixed up with who we are beyond the animated discussion on privacy.

As businesses, we know the difference: The consumers are the users. The customers are the advertisers. Yet we make good on that knowledge only when we deliver on promises. As individuals, we partner with tool makers when we want to self-track, and we stick with it when we get value in the process.

Tools come and go, and context is resource-intensive to execute, even for us. So we look for shortcuts, for code, for the shorthand that will tell us how we should interpret digital behavior, forgetting we don't know what we don't know.

Many factors contribute to the development of your identity:

  • heritage — where we were born, where we live, our age, educational background, etc.
  • environment — transient external factors such as the economy
  • needs — they include both what we truly need and what we think we need and actually just want
  • interactions — we also define ourselves in relationship with others

Which then are associated to factors contributing to our behaviorcontext and trust among the strongest. The very idea that people have just only one identity is an attempt at oversimplifying life and negates the reality of business. It also limits the potential and opportunity with social technologies.

In a decision-making situation we ask three questions:

  1. who am I?
  2. what kind of situation is this?
  3. what would someone like me do in this situation?

Decisions are here and now, which is where present moment actions are, windows of opportunity to build relationships and/or redesign the business logic around a different product line (for example). Instead of taking advantage of it, however, many organizations take the look-busy doorknob polishing approach [h/t Richard Rumelt].

Are you a consumer or a customer?

There is still plenty to be said about the power of identity — the process of designing, building, and delivering yourself.

Have all the social bookmarking services brought you closer to great content, or have they just added to your workload?

Are your online relationships as productive or satisfying as your real ones? And if the answer here is "yes," do you have many real relationships?

Have digital media and social technologies empowered your customer service people — or just thinned out traditional marketing and personnel budgets?

Are email, Twitter, and IM services helping you to communicate better — or just flooding you with the noise of more things to do?


[image of moments before sunrise by slack12]


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