Giving Every User A Voice
Since its entrance into popular culture, the internet has always worked to empower consumers, just by the innate nature of the medium. The wealth of data and improved tools to access that data gave consumers access to information more efficiently than they ever had before. Web 2.0 introduced a new culture of passionate empowered consumers. Their desire was not only to extract value from the internet, but to contribute to an ongoing dialogue with other like-minded consumers. More recently, those conversations have extended beyond user to user, and consumers are able to collaborate directly with the brands they are passionate about.
Consumer collaboration is one of the booming social sectors of the year with numerous branded collaboration tools launching daily. Dell’s IdeaStorm and My Starbucks Idea are commonly cited examples of how consumers can help influence product or service improvements. But, the more comprehensive list of brands involved in crowdsourcing and “white label” social networks is immense. In fact, the list is probably far shorter for brands not currently involved or planning to become involved in some form of consumer collaboration.
Brands are not just collaborating with consumers to gain insights for product improvements. Forrester has broken common objectives into 5 specific categories. Brands are using online communities to listen, to talk, to energize advocates, to support customers, and to embrace consumer ideas. Recent brands to “energize advocates” include SeaWorld and Nike. SeaWorld nurtured rollercoaster enthusiasts with rich video content and Nike featured a top community member in a commercial.
With such a huge growth in consumer collaboration tools, it was just a matter of time before the free, “create your own My Starbucks Idea” tool came forward. Enter User Voice:
“UserVoice is a way to harness the innovation and ideas of customers and potential customers. It’s a way to improve the signal-to-noise of user opinion, and to moderate the ideas of one against the opinions of the many. It’s Satisfaction meets Digg. It’s focus groups for companies that can’t afford focus groups.”
Although UserVoice hasn’t been put to the enterprise level traffic challenge, it does offer much in the way of simplicity and integration into other useful tools, such as Google Analytics. The clean design is reminiscent of a 37Signals product, which makes the learning curve pretty manageable. This makes it an attractive solution for many companies with or without a product, who might not have otherwise got into consumer collaboration. One example is Jeremiah Owyang using UserVoice to take suggestions on how to improve his blog.
This is just further proof that it is a great time to be a consumer. Whether it is big brands using robust collaboration tools with large communities or micro-niche brands engaging smaller groups in a more intimate conversation, there seems to be a movement on all fronts to truly give every consumer a voice.