P2P interview #10: with Ralf Rottmann: "Customers do notice when somebody tries to trick them, though"

by Laurent François


I follow Ralf Rottmann views on TheNextWeb blog, and I wanted to get his views on social media and our digital environment. Here are his views, straight to the point when it comes to talk about relationship. Thanks again Ralf! You can follow Ralf Rottmann on The Next Web and on 24100.net, on Twitter, LinkedIn

  • Hello Ralf: you have 140 signs to tell us who you are and what you’re doing online

Entrepreneur, mobile strategy consultant and social media expert. Passionate team player. Strong focus in strategic innovation & invention.

  • You’ve mentioned in your last post on TheNextWeb that “building a relationship” for companies is at stake: could you define what a brand/consumer relationship means?

The digital era has impacted our way of life in many ways. Consumers now have fantastic tools to better understand the value of the offerings and to make wiser choices. The line between Consumers, Prosumers and Influencers has blurred. This new power comes along with an overexposure to technological innovation and almost daily new brand value propositions. Brands, and this is especially true for the big ones, have to leave their comfort zones, break up their walled gardens and reinforce their presence and participation in networks and communities.

Media democratization gives back a voice to the individual person. Broadcasters have to seriously start thinking about narrowcasting. Brands have to stop shouting, they need to engage in discussions – which includes listening to opinion, something which many big corporations have unlearnt in the past.

Ultimately it’s about coming back to establish a “relationship” in the true sense of the word. The industry has always claimed a “customer relationship”. The truth is, relationships are inherently intimate and personal and it appears to be difficult for large corporation to think outside the business card.

  • How come it’s so complicated for a company to engage conversation with consumers & citizens?

It has to do with a long tradition of a one-way power-chain. I really believe it’s an aspect that corporations have unlearnt over the years.

Partially there have been no reasonable means in place (technology) which would have allowed companies to build efficient 1:1 relationships. So they escaped to 1:many relationships, predominantly by leveraging Business Intelligence (BI) technologies and algorithms trying to fake a true 1:1 relationship. Customers do notice when somebody tries to trick them, though.

It’s wired that the topic of “building a relationship” raises so many questions and calls for experts as in it’s raw essence it’s something we all should have learnt from the day we come into the world. It’s in fact a very fundamental aspect of human life.

That’s why I strongly believe corporations got to leave their alibis behind and start to break with past assumptions replacing them with a new open culture. They have to start listening instead of shouting and act across all important networks (it’s no longer as simple as TV, Web, Print).

  • If you could achieve a great utopia / dream thanks to social web: what would it be?

I’d like to see a time when the most successful social networks and unified communications platforms are no longer owned and centrally operated by businesses, but federated and distributed by the community. The fact that Twitter, Facebook and others are ultimately businesses that have to grow shareholder value limits continuous innovation and naturally tries to keep networks closed as much as possible (besides other claims).

I’d love to see that these new tools get used to ensure each individual, each company a fair access to the digital world, it’s resources and culture.

I would love to see these new abilities leveraged when it comes to policy/decision making and solving the emerging problems of our planet.

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