Never mind the fads, the internet of conversations is the real deal

You’ve heard of the internet. You’ve probably heard of the ‘internet of things’. But have you heard of the ‘internet of customers’?

Ruth Mortimer

No? The phrase was coined by Salesforce.com’s chief executive Marc Benioff at the company’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco earlier this month. And ever since, marketers have been debating whether it is a trend worth noting or a glib sales phrase.

The ‘internet of customers’ is basically a way of saying that businesses need to be customer-centric. While we all get excited talking about the devices available these days, it is the human beings behind the technology we must remember. As we develop increasingly complex digital products, customer need must remain at the core. 

And consumer need is also driving another trend – content marketing. At the International Content Marketing Summit last week, a marketer joked to me that perhaps the trend was not the ‘internet of customers’ but the ‘internet of content’.

He had a point. As we have acquired more media platforms, it has become clear that the principle of ‘build it and they will come’ is not true. Build it and, unless there is a reason to come, stay and play with your brand, consumers won’t bother.

Marketers have decided that content is the reason consumers will come and stay. So Coca-Cola is partnering with fashion and technology creators to create content that is “so contagious it can’t be controlled”. The brand says: “for us, conversation is the absolute currency”.

What does this mean? Coke recently launched a graphic novel for its Fanta drink, which it claims helps the brand tell stories and remain a topic of conversation for consumers. This moves the brand’s content marketing on from a previous lacklustre effort – an online bouncy ball game that failed to engage consumers due to the lack of storytelling.

This suggests that we don’t need to talk about the ‘internet of customers’ or even ‘the internet of content’ – the important thing is the ‘internet of conversation’. The devices now exist for people and brands to have conversations on a global scale at every moment of the day or night, with almost anyone.

So it comes back to a truth that has stood since time immemorial – it’s better to be talked about than not talked about. People love a good story and there is no better way of connecting with them. The internet of conversations is here to stay.

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