WHO ARE PROSUMERS AND WHY DO THEY HAVE SO MUCH POWER?
Flash back to the early nineties… I joined a volleyball team with some friends at the local community center. A few weeks in I heard from one of my teammates that the female coach encouraged them to drop me because I was such a bad player. (To be fair, I had a lot of enthusiasm and leapt around a lot but I was really bad).
Needless to say, I was outraged! Offended! And slightly embarrassed. So I decided to take action. I went straight home and wrote a stern, hand-written letter to her boss. I’ll show her! I thought. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword. Only, when all was said and done, the female coach received a slight reprimand, I quit the team and we were the only three people who ever knew about it.
Flash forward to a different era …
The Social Media Generation.
Where the consumer has become the PROSUMER (professional consumer) and wields all of the power. (Cue evil villain laughter.)
Prosumers are consumers who buy products, use them, then splash reviews about them all over the internet. They may be professionals in a particular business (like a photographer who buys high-end cameras) or high-tech junkies who thrive on trying out the latest and greatest gadgets. They are more savvy and informed than the average consumer and they have higher expectations.
Remember the last time you bought an expensive product or invested your hard-earned money in a service? Did you search the internet for reviews before you made the leap? We all do it and whether we like it or not, these reviews influence the way we think and the decisions we make.
Prosumers use the immense power of social media to spread their messages – good, bad and ugly. The effect is widespread and rapid. Within days, a series of good or bad reviews can change the way the public perceives a product or service and can drive or reduce demand.
There’s a successful company in Silicon Valley called Drobo who knows all about this. Drobo develops and sells cutting-edge data storage devices for small to medium businesses. A great deal of their business relies on prosumers who use their products, then review them on social media sites. Knowing that these reviews can make or break a product, Drobo is very careful to listen to everything they have to say and make changes accordingly. Tom Buiocchi, the CEO of Drobo gives advice on the most important things other companies can do to take care of prosumers:
PLAY ON THEIR TURF - Prosumers operate in the highly-influential world of social media. Everything they say and do is in real time, which means their opinions (good or bad!) are in real time as well. We all know the importance of analyzing data, but even more important is monitoring what people are actually saying about your product or business online. If someone gives you a bad review, you need to be ready to do damage control – fast! Prosumers are the voice of your brand and they can influence a lot of people in a very short span of time. Listen to what they say on social media sites and be ready to take action.
TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY – The Prosumer doesn’t just use products, they identify with them. It’s important to listen to what people are saying about your business or product and respond quickly – whether it’s responding directly to Tweets and Facebook postings or making a personal phone call to an unhappy customer. It might take a bit of extra time, but the personal touch really pays off.
TREAD SOFTLY – Prosumers don’t like a hard sell. They don’t like to be called and pitched, because they already know what they want. You’ll have more success selling your products and services by developing relationships with customers and keeping those relationships going long after the initial sale.
GIVE BACK: – Prosumers care about social responsibility. They like to know that businesses aren’t solely focused on profits. Fortunately, being socially responsible is easy. Companies can donate money or products to organizations, set up employee teams for walk-a-thons or get involved in coastal clean-up campaigns. Not only do you help out very worthwhile causes, but you also gain positive publicity and position your company nicely with charities that already have a loyal following – potential future customers.
Theresa Mills is a freelance blogger and freelance PR specialist for givium in Silicon Valley. She writes a monthly guest business blog for Cool Mojito . She co-founded the Silicon Valley International Women’s Group where she manages events, public relations and social media. Theresacarlsonmills@gmail.com.