Certain technologies bring about changes in customer behaviour. I’ll state that while not every behaviour-changing technology is profitable (from the beginning or ever), aiming to change a behaviour is more likely to result in a profitable technology.
It’s relatively easy for me think of such technologies. Bronze, printing press, and internet are the three that come to mind most easily.
The incremental evidence of benefits is what caused them to be adopted. That adoption, for those benefits, resulted in changes in their behaviour. We generally like to believe for the long-term good, though, for every social action there is a reaction. The environment didn’t benefit from bronze wielding humans too much. Certain factions certainly didn’t benefit from the press. And, ask the RIAA what they think of the internet.
Social internet technologies have enabled the mass expression of an already existing trait in people – the tendency for self-expression. The transference of word of mouth (WOM) from the analog world into the digital world is one of those changing customer behaviours.
As I wrote a few weeks ago on Topic Bearing WOM, a relatively small number of people are generating a large amount of content. The challenge has been to understand a relevant section of it. A very recent technology, twitter, empowers anybody to tell the world a few snippets of what they’re thinking. The result is a massive corpus of information that isn’t processable by a single human being in any meaningful amount of time.
The belief is that by enabling people to understand a large quantity of feedback, they’ll actually be enabled to respond meaningfully to the largest number of people with their limited resources. This would constitute a change in their own behaviour.
Bringing it back – Twitter is a technology which has resulted in a change in customer behaviour. It is not profitable as of yet. It could be in the future. (Lagging revenue S-curve is lagging).
It would be great for the current nest of innovators to think about which behaiours they want to change using technology upfront, and then tailor their technologies and monetization models to that end. Profit isn’t guaranteed, but at least it solves some of the ???? problem.