The internet doesn't encourage people to do anything they wouldn't already do. It does, however, make it easier for them to do what they would want to do anyway, such as finding others with whom they share interests. Today, groups of people can rally around a cause, idea, hobby or other passion like never before. Even people with very niche interests can gain strength in numbers, giving them a stronger voice and greater power to make things happen.
On the surface, it would seem like this is a marketer's dream. Just find these groups, and you have a ready audience to whom you can market your products and services. But it's not working out that easily. These groups have become much more than billboards for the eyeballs they attract each day. They have become thriving, vibrant communities of people who care about each other and do not want to be assaulted by blatant marketing and sales tactics.
This has highlighted the importance of truly understanding your consumers. The insights you derive should guide your company to new ways to provide authentic experiences that your consumers will value. You need to become one of them before they will pay attention to you. The internet has made this point blatently obvious as we see so many companies fail to gain traction with their "online media strategies." But the fact that it's obvious now doesn't mean that it wasn't always true.
Many companies make the mistake of thinking that this is how the online world is different from the traditional channels they know well. In reality, this is how the expectations of newly empowered consumers will change the way the traditional world works. Are you ready to meet these challenges?
Who at your company is responsible for understanding the consumer inside and out? How is this understanding changing the way you think about the way you do marketing and develop new products and services? Hopefully you've discovered that the lines are blurring, which may be a bit confusing. If so, then see it as a sign that you're on the right track.