It took Get Satisfaction three years to raise 10.9 million dollars in funding and two months after launching their site BranchOut raised $6 million. Consumer Web companies are getting capital left and right and collaboration or “crowd-sourcing” is the new dot com. Most retail stores and businesses have ‘Follow Us’ signs for Twitter and ‘Like’ signs for Facebook without much knowledge of what to do or manage growing fans. Pretty soon people will be able to collaborate for just about anything online however it won’t erase the fact that the economy is entering a severe depression with current unemployment rates in the double digits in most states and any gaps in protection or necessity is being filled by the web. What does BranchOut’s recent funding highlight? Americans are concerned about two things: having their voice heard and getting a job.
Employment and online activity have always been related. The less people are working the more time they have to “connect.” The same goes for politics and consumer products. The more time a customer has to reflect the more verbal they will be, whether or not their time available is by choice.
Customer Service is the New Sales
What’s interesting is for years customer service has taken a back-burner to corporate budgets with companies gambling that the customer wouldn’t have time to connect or reach back if there is an issue. The value of doing the wrong thing many times made fiscal sense. Now that consumers are becoming more active companies are having to reverse decades of structure to accommodate all this network and social media “stuff” the cost of doing business will rise as well as the bar on quality. It also means the cost of goods will rise making customer retention more valuable than simply “selling” to new ones. This week Forbes.com introduced a redesign working with SocialAmp to increase social conversation activity. Other social media servicers, take note.
He Who Controls Currency Wins
Hundreds of years ago it used to be The Church which maintained control of society. Rules and punishments were enforced and dowries collected. Governments now control taxes and incomes in return for protection and rights and enforces rules and regulations. Facebook now has online credits, retail gift cards with credits, and rumoured to be restricting its API to outside developers with some small changes taking affect this week. Curious about interest rates and investments? Don’t watch NYSE, all eyes should be on the internet. Getting a loan through traditional banks have become near impossible paving the path for online personal lending with Prosper.com and small micro-lending for entrepreneurs with Kiva.org. Who needs a credit score when you can use your online scores for validity. Facebook credit score, anyone?
Online is the New Vote
Enjoy that latest tweet from your local senator? Meg Whitman has already thrown in $119MM from personal funds for campaigning and still isn’t in the lead for governor of California. Voters increasingly feel like they are not being heard as noted by a recent study from E-Voter Institute and online voting networks are ramping up, like Votizen, who this week received $1.5MM in funding to help them build out ways to track and integrate voting. Imagine no longer needing a toll but to use Facebook Connect to vote online. Elections could even be held more frequently and on smaller more local (or network related) basis.
Estimates now show Mark Zuckerberg is worth more than Steve Jobs and on a path of contribution: on Wednesday he donated nearly $100MM to the schools of Newark. If we continue to see consumer relations and transactions occurring online, even in the form of voting or opinion related, the really interesting part will be when metrics are applied to certain groups of consumers and their behaviors. Will politics become as viral as online games? For now its too soon to tell, but depositing that paycheck into a Facebook online account isn’t too far away, already FB credits wants to replace your credit card.