Social computing is changing the way marketers and business executives interact with their customers. It’s not another channel. It’s a philosophy. It’s becoming a key way for customers to experience brand and exposure to products and services in an informal conversation allowing them to make the first move.

The larger question is: “How does one design, build, deploy and manage an effective solution in the midst of massive evolution?” And, unfortunately, there is no common interpretation of social. Some get it fundamentally wrong when they view this only as a channel. Some are enlightened with a new philosophy to serve their customers and dive in headfirst or partner with savvy Internet marketers who can assist like WSI.

In this current climate, businesses face an expectations-gap between the consumer world and business environment. Employees and customers yearn to experience offerings as social and community based, whether it’s shopping, gaming, or internal collaboration.

What’s interesting is there is a generational gap here. People are very interested in including their reference peer group in everything they are doing with recommendations and experience sharing. A slightly older demographic may see the value of social, yet have not implemented that into everything they do. They see it as a major advantage, but may not fundamentally know how they want to engage with the ongoing experience.

Meanwhile, the 40 to 50 year old demographic is engaging rapidly and that includes us baby boomers or the 50+ market that are being dragged into social Channels by their bootstraps. For this group, social media is a rich media providing new ways to interact and experience.

Is social computing disruptive?

The major disruption is the change in the power balance. Consumers have the power because they can quickly amplify their experience with admiration for a brand they love or rally their connections to hear about their recent or ongoing injustices. Companies should be listening and responding as much as they are leading as they are constantly being evaluated as to are they doing what they says they are doing? Are they being true to the core of what they are about? We have a customer-network effect that can go viral in an instant.

People are more willing to tweet or post on Facebook about a bad experience than call a company to tell them they had a bad interaction. This makes the way companies must respond to customers very different. And, you need to build this competency into your call centers and at every customer touch point.

Now, the only way to differentiate yourself and experience is through service and customers experience. Some may some say this is a major challenge, but those who have embraced can make the social customer experience an opportunity to differentiate, accelerate sales, and build brand advocacy.

Social computing should be more than just building connections from one platform to another. We need to focus on building systems that strengthen ties between people. It’s the passionate fans, the ones who feel like they belong to your brand, that are changing the game. They’re offering up their evangelism, their ideas, their advice to other customers. Taking that kind of data and making it useful to an organisation takes changes in both culture and technology. Social customers don’t care if your title is “customer service agent” or “CEO” – when they have a question, they just want an answer. NOW! So if you can create a system where you can give information exactly when it’s needed, everybody wins.

Social programs are associated with their ability to view, respond, and engage with customers and other members of the community. It’s not a volume-game. It’s based upon how others in the community value your contribution and it encourages repeat participation, providing passionate members with a badge of honor for their knowledge and contribution.