Today’s life of constant give and take redefines the “user/consumer” role in business. Think about how business in general has evolved–several hundreds of years ago, it was the job of the engineers/managers to decide what is made. Slowly, the “market” decided how businesses work. But that’s not enough. Within every market, there’s individual micro-communities with very unique needs.

Fast forward to the “user-generated media” era of today. The keyword word here is “user” …we’re users create media. This means we’re in charge of what we see, do, and have. In a way, the market is for the people and run by the people; which is the beauty of social media.

However, we’re moving past this idea quickly. B/c not only are we just created or generating media, but we are consuming it at an increasing rate. From blogs to podcasts to vlogs we are consuming tons of content each day. No longer do we just use data, we consume, learn, store, and express ideas. It’s important how the roles are shifting here and businesses must take note of this.

The life of a consumer:

  • Social Bookmarking: Tools like delicious make it easy for users to consume information at any time of the day no matter where they are (at home, work, or from their mobile device). Not to mention, you can share your delicious links with other users using tags. Again, we aren’t just creating content, we are consuming it and making it easy for others to consume as well. Its quick, fast, easy, and non-techy. It’s social bookmarking, NOT technical bookmarking.
  • RSS Feeds: Similar to bookmarking, RSS feeds can be read through a feedreader, like Google feedreader. Today we want instantaneous updates on the fly! Feedreaders bring all of that to you. Subscribe to an RSS feed, keep it stored, visit the link in the future. Consuming information from multiple sources is easy and quick!
  • Social Networking: Everyone is involved with this…whether it be MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, or online dating sites (match.com). Everyone has an account! Again, the easy factor comes into play here…plus all of these tools provide users with the opportunity to consume candid information from their family, peers, or even people of the same interests around the world.
  • Blogs: Plain and simple, blogs drive social media. The majority of the tools I mentioned above all grab content from blogs or some sort of repository for information. First, being able to store information/thoughts in one place is great, but sharing it with the world at large is remarkable. Im contributing to the world…im offering my own candid thoughts for others to consume.

There are several other components that drive the lives of consumers and as technology moves forward so will the tools. For now, its important to understand why this is so important.

Consumers are engaging with their peers, neighborhoods, and the world. Before social media, we only had school, work, and clubs to engage with others locally. But, the conversation has moved globally now.

Although, how can we measure the effectiveness of these tools? Here’s what I think:

  • Word of Mouth
  • Increase in the number of users
  • Comments/User Feedback
  • Innovation of new tools for users
  • What’s missing?

I’m positive measuring the effectiveness of a community marketing program will always be difficult.  But, hey, at least it gives us something to talk about.  I’m curious as to what other strategies are for measuring if your community program is engaging enough?