Movies will exist in theaters and on hard dives at home. The ‘DVD collection’ will become a historical footnote. Remember Laser Discs, BetaMax or even VHS? No one thought they would vanish either.
Personal libraries, or in other words, book collections, will be akin to the robotic pets in P.K. Dick’s prescient novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Descendants of neo-Luddites will show off their books to close friends as collectors of Edison phonographs do today.
The reason for all of is this is that today people are coming to know reading, listening and entertainment just as you are right now – through the web. That’s how they’re communicating with each other as well. A social network like Facebook with over 180 million users is just five years old. It’s estimated that over 3 billion text messages are sent in U.S. alone every day. The number of email messages is substantially higher than that.
These changes aren’t something that’s going to happen in some unspecified time ‘in the future’. Rather, the future is happening right now. People are depending on communities online friends to make recommendations about hybrid cars, cell phones, movies, restaurants, resorts, yoga schools, lawyers and which bottle of wine to purchase.
So you have to ask yourself, is your company any different? Aren’t your customers exchanging opinions about your products and your brand on the web right now? And rather than letting the chips fall where they may, shouldn’t you be doing what you can to influence that conversation? Shouldn’t you be providing an online meeting place where true supporters of your brand can hold court? Even if it requires more transparency in everything you do?
Of course the answer is yes. But here’s the tricky part. You can’t just toss some information on Facebook, Flickr and YouTube and be done with it. Your customers want to be entertained. They want to participate. They want to have an ongoing dialogue. They want you to incorporate their suggestions into your products. In other words, it’s likely that they’re going to want to see some changes made.
So yes, it’s a culture shift for your business. Suddenly, your customer has a direct pipeline to call the shots. They, rather than you, become the experts. But doesn’t it make more sense that way? Who needs focus groups when you have hundreds – or possibly thousands – of customers interacting with your company every day?
The only real question that remains is: Are you going to be there ahead of your competitors, or far behind them?