Or perhaps we could call this post, “Stephanie Fierman Meets The Future” or “It’s Hard To Keep Up When You’re Over 40.”  Whatever. 

The upshot, I suspect, is to introduce my audience to Tara Hunt, otherwise known as Miss Rogue. Tara is pretty famous in the increasingly important Web 2.0 – I’d say even Web 3.0 – environment of building authentic customer relationships. Tara’s blog made her Canadian phone ring one day, which got her a job in San Francisco, which led her and her partner Chris Messina to start a company, Citizen Agency, which is now turning down clients.  Big clients.  Big Fortune 50 clients. 

Maybe they won’t turn down business forever, but Citizen Agency is currently focusing on smaller technology companies where Chris and Tara think they have the best chance of actually helping the client execute customer-centric strategies around product research, design, development and marketing.  If that’s not clear, Citizen Agency’s blog post of October 2 is from Chris, humorously relaying the explanation of Citizen Agency’s reason for being during a hot stone massage.   

Another post describes it thusly (see picture and text below.  For you marketers out there, I dare you to say that you haven’t been in the room when one of these conversations has taken place… See if you can guess which comment is the client’s and which might come from the agency):

                               stephanie-fierman-citizen-agnecy-circles.jpg 

“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”
“But we can’t afford to buy new servers.”
“Your slow performance is the number one reason your customers are leaving.”

“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”
“But our investors want us to keep it secure and tight track of who is using it.”
“The reason your developer network is dead is because you put too many limitations on your API usage.”

“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”
“Well, that is just not priority right now. We have to get the next release of features out.”
“Your user experience is horrendous. Bloggers all over the web are talking about it.”

Their point is, of course, that losing customers makes these other concerns superfluous.  But why don’t we listen? And if that’s too much homework for today, let’s just try to figure out how we can use social media and community to help.  I think part of the struggle is that a lot of folks are trying to understand social media and its impact on brands and marketers as a trend, or the new “thing.”  Like… I don’t know, say, six sigma:  for most of us, if we kept our mouths shut and waited it out, six sigma went the way of the time and motion study.   

But social media is not going the way of the slide rule, because it’s not a trend but really the creation of an entirely new communication stream between customers and companies.   Sure, Bebo, Facebook and the like will be old news some day, but companies having to adapt to a constant 24/7 two-way conversation with their customers – where those customer comments may be on display for all the world to see – is here to stay. 

As marketers, it’s our responsibility to make this a good thing for our brands, no matter how foreign it may be.  It’s our job to help our CEOs understand that loosening the reins is, well, mandatory.  It’s our job to define what the new party phrase “the consumer is in control” actually means in our own spheres of influence.  After meeting Tara Hunt today, I was not only tremendously impressed but also very relieved to know that there’s such great help out there.

 

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