ZDNet is carrying a story this morning about Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, an enterprise cloud computing company. Â In it, they say he believes companies won’t abuse social data they can ‘scrape‘ together about their customers from multiple sources.
By the way – try to watch the key note from Cloudforce 2011, “Welcome to the Social Enterprise”; it was something of a ‘eureka’ moment to see that firms are really getting to grips with what ‘social’ means for us and how we interact with companies – as both employees and customers.
Anyway, I digress because the ZDNet article actually reads:
“Companies will not combine data from different sources for analytics purposes to an extent where customers are alienated.”
This rather sounds to me like the quote could be interpreted such that companies will only combine data from different sources …up to the point where alienation makes combination inefficient. Â It is a certainty that many companies will scrape all the information they can and will seek to use scraped information as effectively as they can. Â Some will only stop using the information when they know it pisses their customers off more than the benefit the company derives from the activity.
The interesting difference to watch for in the future will be the extent to which different firms stop at different times and what causes each firm to stop. Â For some firms, the economics of the situation will determine but for others, reputational cost will be a significant part of the equation, making such firms stop earlier than the others.
This seems to me to be theÂ essenceÂ of social – Benioff’s point, I believe – but I cannot avoid thinking of Bentham’s Panopticon whenever I think of issues like this. Â Social has re-modelled Bentham’s prison design. Â Instead of those who can be watched changing their behaviour because they think they might be being watched (whether they are or not), those doing the watching (or scraping) are having to adjust their behaviour because the walls that formerly isolated those being watched have been destroyed.
In the past, firms had little need to listen to isolated complaints (though many did) but every firm must react, and better still avoid altogether, uniting their customers with reason to complain.