Selling on the web is quickly becoming lessabout marketers’ supply meeting up with customers’ demand, and more about customers themselves actively bringing their demand toward supply. 

In fact, they’re creating supply in many cases. And successful marketers are creating experiences for customers — not merely selling to them.

People now have access to so much content — and have so many ways to gather news and information — that the likelihood of your corporate message penetrating the clutter is virtually nil.

Instead, if you engage the audience in a conversation and learn what the social community is looking for and concerned about, you might be able to persuade them to hear your message.

In the words of David Weinberger at the 2007 New Communications Forum Lecture:

“There is no market for your message”.

The phrase “monetizing within niche settings” should sound familiar to anyone working in the online affiliate marketing sphere. 

Indeed, this was the great promise of affiliate marketing but has it really played out? Or have affiliates so far merely “shuttled traffic” to advertisers, rather than serving as community monetizers?  

Given the web’s increasingly social nature, today’s customers are bypassing ‘interceptive’ strategies like search and, yes, affiliate marketing.

No, affiliate marketing isn’t dying or threatened but it is challenged to change. How? Affiliates are challenged to do more than just shuttle traffic and get ‘in between’ demand and supply.

Affiliate networks are challenged to house more than just ‘helpful interceptors’. Marketers expect networks to provide value-added resellers. Or as my colleague David Lewis of 77Blue (a successful affiliate) refers to them, “value added pre-sellers”.

Getting back to the consumers, they’re increasingly choosing a variety of non-traditional paths to discover products and services – faster and easier than ever before.

Says Jupiter Research:

“Social and community sites affected the purchase decisions of 51% of online shoppers aged 18-24. This is far beyond any other age group, which averaged less than 26%. A total of 36% of online shoppers influenced by social/community sites said they buy offline even though they use online social/community sites to make their decisions.”

So what’s a savvy marketer to do?

The answer may seem radical. Today’s marketers must help customers find, consider and purchase products and services by creating authentic digital experiences. That’s the new twist – and it’s not just a load of hyped-up social media spin.

This new paradigm will be fueled by the recently announced Data Portability Working Group.

This consortium of unlikely partners (including Plaxo, LinkedIn, Google, Sixapart, Facebook and Yahoo’s Flickr) is banding together to ensure users of the “social web” can have power over the data they’re putting out there.

By making sure social media sites and services are inter-operable the user experience becomes simple, the social information portable and shared. It’s the first step toward providing marketers with a serious social marketing platform.

How exciting is that?!

Jeff Molander is the CEO of Molander & Associates and is a regular guest blogger at E-consultancy. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those held by the publisher.