Reflections on the Social Customer

Almost seven years ago, in October 2004, I wrote The Social Customer Manifesto. It was short and sweet and it read like this:


  • I want to have a say.
  • I don’t want to do business with idiots.
  • I want to know when something is wrong, and what you’re going to do to fix it.
  • I want to help shape things that I’ll find useful.
  • I want to connect with others who are working on similar problems.
  • I don’t want to be called by another salesperson. Ever. (Unless they have something useful. Then I want it yesterday.)
  • I want to buy things on my schedule, not yours. I don’t care if it’s the end of your quarter.
  • I want to know your selling process.
  • I want to tell you when you’re screwing up. Conversely, I’m happy to tell you the things that you are doing well. I may even tell you what your competitors are doing.
  • I want to do business with companies that act in a transparent and ethical manner.
  • I want to know what’s next. We’re in partnership…where should we go?

At the time, I’d recently re-read Cluetrain, blogs were not well known, and I had just returned from Dave Winer‘s BloggerCon III, where I had fantastic conversations with Dave, and Doc Searls, and Jay Rosen and many others I’m still grateful to call friends to this day.

Since then, the concept of the “social customer” has inarguably taken hold. Others have taken the term and incorporated it into their own blogs and book titles. (CRM Magazine even devoted an entire issue to “Who Owns the Social Customer?” in 2009.)

When those words were written in 2004, the seeds were being planted for a change that, today, is still in its infancy in many ways. At the time, the blogging for business was something very nascent. (In 2004, we were still nearly a year before BusinessWeek declared “Blogs Will Change Your Business, which was the seminal article that really launched the concepts of blogs and early social networking for business into the stratosphere.)

There were really two camps. You were either a “publisher,” or you were a “consumer.” (Not a “customer,” but a “consumer” — one who consumes.) The concept of something that was in-between those two extremes was outside the realm of view for many. The thought that both the tools and interest for self-publishing would be widespread was oftentimes viewed with skepticism.

The way of the world was that the mass-producers produced, and the consumers consumed that output.

5 Replies to “Reflections on the Social Customer”

  1. I bet it feels great to be a pioneer, Chris and envision what others are just starting to grasp.
    Social media has changed CRM forever! Now providing superior customer experience is not enough! You want to engage customers in the product creation process and turn them into brand advocates.
    As Seth Godin beautifully stated in his eBook “Flipping the Funnel”:
    “Turn strangers into friends.
    Turn friends into customers
    And then… do the most important job:
    Turn your customers into salespeople.”
    But in order for businesses to create a solid bond with their customers, they have to provide reassurance of the valid points you included in your excellent manifesto. And they need to be proactive about it by incorporating the points you mentioned into their brand message. And if their actions met their promises, they will thrive and prosper in no time.
    Thanks a lot for sharing these valuable insights, Chris. All the best 🙂

  2. It’s a bit like playing football, left open, try right-sided, short, try not to “dead end.” Remember, you let go of the things you will eat more and more time, until you open it up

  3. I believe still the effectiveness of social media in a B2B business is questionable. Since very few decision making people are active on social network. I find a majority of people who are really active are marketers themselves. How do you find out where a decision maker from a large bank or a insurance company or a retail company checks out before investing in a new technology. Still the likes of Gartner, Forrester and industry analysts remain a major influencing factor. Please share your views.

Comments are closed.