Consuming the Social

This week’s topic deals with the changing relationship between the consumer and business. The first thing that stand’s out for me is how business has embraced the Internet. Most businesses have some kind of Internet presence even little ‘mom and pop’ stores have gotten on the bandwagon. Many businesses also make use of a number of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (many use Facebook’s ‘Like’ as a promotional tool. Advertising has become rampant across the web with ads popping up on almost every page. The one thing that I find really annoying is that my every move is tracked for the purpose of ‘helping’ me decide what to purchase. While this can be helpful, for example suggesting a book based on my previous purchases, I once again feel like I’m being manipulated for the sole purpose of capitalism – the power of suggestion convincing me to buy something I didn’t know I even wanted. The gamification of shopping is yet another manipulation – offering reward points, or the benefits becoming a preferred customer to influence customers.

It’s not all bad, however. It’s much easier to compare products and prices over the web – it saves having to actually go to the various stores. Product reviews provide another advantage. I often use reviews for advice about products that I might not be that familiar with, for example a lawn mower motor – does size matter? I also use book reviews frequently. I’ve never posted a review. I suppose if I found something extremely good or extremely bad I might consider posting a comment, but only if it didn’t involved having to sign up for yet another site. Social media sites could also be used as a valuable resource, eliciting information from knowledgeable friends; however I tend to ask for advice from my friends, face to face. I do think that the web can provide customers with some protection. A string of bad reviews or complaints will surely draw the attention of the business and hopefully force the business to provide an acceptable solution. Like anything on the web it is user beware. False claims will crop up. There is bound to be someone who will try to abuse the system or someone who happens to get a lemon and complains bitterly, but the educated consumer should be able to spot these anomalies.

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