"Their brand lives in the voice of their customers," said Peter Friedman, CEO of LiveWorld, Inc. "And it always did, but they couldn't hear it. Now they can't help but hear it."
Even though some marketers try to establish a controllable community of users, such efforts often fail, said Jeff Jarvis, blogging guru and a consultant with the New York Times Company. That's because consumers frequently sidestep the corporate-sanctioned community, and instead make their own, he said. Pulling out his Treo mobile device, Jarvis said that users of the phone eschew Sprint's product site, opting instead for sites like Treonauts.com and TreoCentral.com, which are consumer-created and consumer-operated.
"The days of centralized 'We own the community, we own the brand,' are over," Jarvis said. "People do it however they want, wherever they want."
But, while they can't control the conversation, companies can listen and move their marketing efforts forward by taking into account consumer suggestions about ads, product design, and customer service. "Let them create your product, let them create your ads," said Jarvis. "If the public designs the product, they're more likely to buy it."