Whilst its somewhat gauche to still refer to the post-modern consumer, prosumer or whatever other label is flavour of the month, the core concept that contemporary consumers are complex, multifaceted contiuums of behaviour along multiple dimesnsion of identtity and behaviour is now taken as a given. Within marketing we've had a mantra that the highest form of marketing is to have an immerseive philospohy of customer centricity that goes beyond the lip service of Customer is King/Queen. It is a way of doing business in which the satisfaction of the customer comes first and not after the satisfacton of business goals.
With the advent of social media and the fluid transition today's consumers make between media forms both between online and online and between online and offline has made understanding consumers somewhat difficult task, indeed some have said Herculean.
Consumers are organized in social networks and can take action together, we call these 'groups' tribes or cultures depending on who you read and who's definitions you ascribe to. They can discuss isolated instances of bad customer experiences and place them in context. Thus, they express concerns and dissatisfaction more loudly than they have ever been able to. What is more, they can take action to challenge business activities and people in power. In the digital environment (both online and offline), the voice of a few can inspire and reach many, indeed marketers strive to do exactly that with viral campaigns. With Social media consumers are organised such that the facilitated (and constant) flow of information among different social networks makes the voice of every single customer that much stronger and makes the spreading of such concerns that must faster.
This is where customer evangelism becomes critical and its where netnography can play a vital role in the health, grow and development of customer communities and the brands/products they are aggregated around. We've always talked about moving customer 'loyalty' to the point that a consumer becomes a prosthelytiser for our brand or company - now we are starting to have the tools to do this is a meaningful and practical way.