The Social Customer


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There has been a healthy discussion around the concept of the Social Customer that I’ve been observing and participating in, and this post was inspired by this particular discussion. Much like the debate around SocialCRM, a lot of the discussion comes down to definitions and terms. So I encourage everyone writing this post to step outside of the boxed definitions and focus on the issues.

I am not here to debate the validity of the term “social customer” and neither do I endorse the practice of slapping “social” to the front of existent business constructs. What I do want to discuss is whether or not the social customer actually exists or whether it’s just another buzzword. Whatever, we call her, she does exist, and yes, she is different in some ways to her more traditional counterpart, yet somewhat the same, because she is still human. Obviously I think she exists, otherwise I wouldn’t have written a whole whitepaper about her with Chess Media and Comity Advisors.

What hasn’t changed:

Humans are social creatures, and sharing information with others is a part of our nature. We also have a much higher degree of trust placed in people we know. Nielsen says that “ninety percent of consumers surveyed noted that they trust recommendations from people they know” and “seventy percent of people polled trusted consumer opinions posted online”. This has always been the case, with or without social media. Word of Mouth has always been esteemed as the #1 marketing approach in all of my undergrad and MBA marketing courses. Except for back in the day, W-O-M happened in person, via phone, via email and across other channels that we couldn’t measure. If I really wanted to know what the best product in the category was, I’d ping a couple friends on email and ask.

Enter review sites. Now consumers could post reviews of various products for the benefit of other consumers. This was, and still is, a great way to figure out what people outside of your social circle are saying. For example, I was shopping around for a digital photo frame for my parents. Googling got me to consumer review sites, where I learned about certain brands and certain dimensions that I should stay away from if I wanted to keep the original aspect ratio on my photos. Would’ve never thought to ask, and none of my friends knew much about digital photo frames.

But people share not only information about products. They share news and what they think is important and germane to their social circles. In his book “Here Comes Everbody“, Clay Shirky highlights about how in the past, there was a tremendous barrier to sharing, If I wanted to share an article, I’d have to clip it, photocopy it, put it into envelopes, write addresses, lick stamps and take the letters to a post office. The desire to share was always there, but the tools were lacking. Until…

Things became different

With easy publishing tools, creating content is easy. With social sharing tools, it’s even easier to share this content with as many people as are in your network, and with platforms as good for discovery as Twitter is, you can even expose your message to anyone tracking that topic. So now, this same customer, who’s had opinions of her own about any and every product she’s ever used, can publish and share her thoughts with a mouseclick. And if you are looking for information on that product, you can find what other people have already said. This information can be exchanged inside or outside of your personal network, and definitely is more trusted inside your network (90% vs. 70% as stated above). The same human being, characterized by learning from her peers and sharing information with others, now goes about her business very differently. She can get more reliable information faster, so she shares and consumes. She is the same, yet different. Same desires and business (or personal) problems, same pain points, but different behaviors that help her solve these problems.

To learn more about the social customer and the impact that she has on businesses, please check out our free whitepaper. For a brief overview of the content, you can check out this slideshare deck.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Maria Ogneva
I'm the Head of Community for Yammer, the enterprise social network used by 100,000 organizations, including more than 80% of the Fortune 500. At Yammer, she is in charge of social media and community programs, fostering internal and external education and engagement. You can follow her on Twitter at @themaria or on her blog, and Yammer at @yammer and company blog.


  1. Thanks Robin! I’m also a huge fan of Social Media Today!

    Social Media Director at Attensity360. Connect with me on Twitter at @themaria or @attensity360


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