Consumers reap benefits of the social web01 Dec 12 04:30PM EST |
The phenomenal growth of social networking combined with continuing technological advances, like mobile internet connectivity, has brought new opportunities across the social spectrum – and consumers are one of the biggest winners.
It seems relevant then that this is one of the reoccurring topics of discussion at the Consumers International World Congress being held in Hong Kong, which I’m currently attending as a CHOICE representative.
Across the globe, consumers are taking advantage of social media to approach issues both large and small. From capturing the devastation of natural disasters first-hand, such as the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, to publicly approving – or condemning – products and services, there’s a palpable sense of the increased empowerment provided through social media to consumers from many different walks of life.
Look no further than the recent Vodafail website if you need proof, or check out the many forums online sharing opinions and advice, such as Whirlpool. But you don’t need to create a website or be an internet aficionado to utilise social media. With the Twitter population now larger than Brazil and more Facebook users than the population of the United States, it’s easy to connect both with friends and like-minded strangers.
However, it’s also tomorrow’s consumers that are the focus of the congress, and it’s clear there will be more to the future of social media than status updates. The idea mill suggests that greater information for consumers is high on the agenda.
Everything from product sustainability ratings to price comparisons at the point of sale could be standard on your smartphone and tablet PC in the not-too-distant future. One way to achieve this would be to add the information to the barcode, which could then be revealed through a simple scan with your mobile. The private market in some countries is already introducing this technology.
Group buying is another area where technology has presented the opportunity for growth. The concentrated collective effort of the masses can be a tool to ensure the best and fairest prices for goods and services - something we’re already seeing in Australia to a degree with things like comparison websites that help consumers find the best products for their needs.
All this is just the beginning, though. People from around the world are already utilising the web for activism, to break down cultural borders and to increase knowledge and awareness in many areas. We can’t yet imagine where the global social network could take future generations.
The work is cut out for those of us working to improve consumer rights, but there’s no doubt that social media is a powerful vehicle to achieve the changes we want to see both at home and globally.
How do you see social media and increased connectivity improving the lives of consumers in the future?