THE BLOG
09/07/2010 11:53 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What if your customers helped each other make purchasing decisions?

Companies whose leaders have embraced the concept of open leadership to the point of posting feedback--both the good and the bad, in the form of customer reviews--have an opportunity to take social media to the next level: enabling customers to guide each other in their decisions about which purchase will achieve their goals.

Oftentimes there are two kinds of customers, especially when it comes to complex technology products and services. One is the do-it-yourself (DIY) crowd--they like to research their options and comparison-shop. Others find choices overwhelming and ask you to simplify the options for them. The first enjoys sharing its findings, and typically companies don't even realize they have this valuable "customer-to-customer" resource right at their fingertips. It's piling up in the form of blog or forum comments, as well as ratings and reviews on their web site. Untold DIY customers took the time and trouble to figure out which configuration would work for their needs and a corresponding number of simplify-it customers would be grateful to hear their conclusions.

But maybe they'd prefer to hear them on neutral ground, and in a way where the information is aggregated and easy to use and to access. That's why we launched our new Tag Team feature on Facebook. The app allows users to pull product reviews generated by customers from a tag cloud of keywords describing ways the product can be used, such as web design or photography. Up pop comments on various devices, exactly as they were originally posted.

It takes a leap of faith to embrace this kind of approach, since a given search can yield a group of products that are being used by customers in a way the company hasn't marketed and may not have originally intended. But this level of transparency yields results that focus on customers and how they use technology to grow and thrive--ultimately delivering better choices and better products that meet customers' needs and strengthen the company's relationship with their audience.

This kind of tool is an example of the ways social media can really get interesting if businesses embrace the wisdom of the crowd--particularly a crowd that's interested in what they make or do. It's the point where collaboration results in invention, and everyone gains.