After attending a digital marketing meetup last week, I was inspired by something Meagan Neale, Global Head of Engagement Centres Unilever,  said when talking about innovation in the customer experience space.  She stressed ‘don’t call it innovation, call it thinking differently.’  Simple reason being that the word innovation is overused and has scary or complex connotations for some. Thinking differently on the other hand is clear and more easily embraced.

In a similar way I thought how the word ‘social’ is also an overused term that has some people heading for the hills as soon as they hear it.  Peer-to-peer on the other hand is clear and has more positive connotations including authenticity and trust.

Peer-to-peer is thriving in all shapes and forms – it’s helpful to list how and where to really appreciate its growing influence.   

P2P marketing:  Peer-to-peer endorsements are the one of the best forms of advertising a business or brand can have. The power of advocates who personally recommend your brand and share positive reviews about you on their social media is well understood and used by the most successful brands today.  This is branching into other parts of the customer journey – for example Unilever are totally changing the way they engage with customers - leaving the traditional call centre model behind and moving towards peer-to-peer support, through incentives and emotional engagement.

If customers can be credible spokespeople then so can employees.  As each Edelman Trust Barometer shows, employees and customers trust ‘people like me.’ As a result senior leadership teams are increasingly seeking to inspire and empower their employees to become brand advocates.

P2P financing: The P2P and crowdfunding industry is going mainstream, a report by University of Cambridge and Nesta report published last month reported massive growth from £666m in 2013 to £3.2bn in 2015 and is predicted to be worth £5bn this year. P2p financing include personal loans including mortgages, business lending and from April 2016 a peer-to-peer ISA is on the cards. 

P2P networking:  Is this the secret behind the explosion of LinkedIn in recent years? While many professionals still shy away from Twitter few risk not being part of LinkedIn.  This professional network has grown from a collection of online CVs to an immensely powerful personal and business marketing tool where business peers interact with business peers.

P2P networks: Brought to our attention by the file sharing system Napster in 1999 and succeeded by the likes of BitTorrent, peer networks are decentralised systems where interconnected nodes or "peers" share resources amongst themselves and tend to be used to for media sharing (and usually associated with copyright violation!)

P2P economy: With trust being the currency of the digital age, the peer-to-peer or ‘sharing economy’ is thriving with stars such as eBay, AirBnB and Uber familiar to us all. Peer reviews on both sides help mitigate any risks.  Less known but similarly useful services such as Animal Angles (hosts who mind other people’s animals at rates much cheaper than kennels) and the easyCar Club (rent local cars from real people) illustrate how nearly every asset we own now can become fair game.

P2P video streaming:  Mobile apps Periscope and MeerKat are leading the charge offering live peer to peer video streaming services allowing anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection to share their window on the world globally.

No doubt there are many more examples than those listed above.  Next time you sense someone is likely to balk at the mention of ‘social’ try using ‘peer to peer’ instead and see if it cuts through their glaze.