As part of my research for our new online community I have read through a pile of reports, many from Forrester. I have read them with mixed emotions.

Some show great insight and Forrester are very good at structuring phenomena in the world of social networking sites. But sometimes you cannot help yourself from giggling and thinking of how true old sayings still are. Like “experts often discover things that ordinary people have known for ages”.

Savor this one from a Forrester report called Organic Branding: “People don’t form and interact with communities in order to support a company. They do it to serve their own emotional needs”.

What great insight! Such revolutionary thinking! Such gobbledygook! What an astounding example of discovering the obvious. Obvious to anybody who is a believer in true marketing orientation, that is. For oldies who still believe in product or production orientation it might be news. But to anyone claiming to be marketing oriented this insight should flow through your veins: People don’t buy your stuff for your sake, but for their own sake. Or, people don’t browse around your website or community because it’s so brilliantly designed or has such a cool function. They do it because there’s something in it for them.

There’s a nice twist to that as well: the true marketing minded and the usability apostles have very, very much in common.

Social Networking Sites are about to finally tilt the scale in favor of true marketing orientation. The immediate feedback and widely distributed opinions by customers and real people from real life in communities has given the marketing orientation advocates ammunition of a kind they have never ever had before.

Now, you can force product development to listen to the wishes of customers, as it is expressed and distributed in the blogosphere. The repercussions of attitudes, training and empowerment of front line staff are so much more direct and visible that there are no more arguments against taking good care of your customer service staff.

Unhappy users are transformed from anonymous statistics of brand defections to angry bloggers who make their voice heard and their dissatisfaction is widely and rapidly distributed.

So, as a passionate advocate of the power of the customer and the end user, I vow that our social networking site will be transparent and extremely user centric. And if we stumble at any time, please let me know and remind me of this (pompous) promise.

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