Hey, Didn’t You Ask For It?

by Jay Deragon on 03/25/2008

Hey, Didn’t You Ask For It?In the past the masses were fed by the few and the consumption by the many was influenced by what the few offered. In the past consumers had limited feedback mechanisms and whatever the feedback was it was contained for review by the few.In the past public participation in the creations of media and the offerings of business was limited and controlled by the few.

Fundamentally consumers accepted the old “system” because quite frankly there was no alternative to consider and thus the “system” delivered whatever it created and the masses consumed whatever was produced with limited methods of participation.

During the 80’s and 90’s corporations found competitive value in consumer input and the craze for surveys, focus groups and rating systems flooded the markets and all means of reaching consumers. Our email, our physical mail, our phones, our work environments and our physical communities surrounded us with request for input about anything, everything and everywhere we worked, played, conversed and transacted.

Corporations hired statisticians, analyst, quality guru’s and the race for competitive position based on consumer preferences and feedback along with reduction of organizational waste became a race for position based on the “voice of the customer” and the “voice of the system“.

The “team mantra” was the corporate speak of the day while the people (employees, suppliers and customers) initially bought in but quickly became disenfranchised by the cultural barriers that prevented real changes and open communications. People were asked to be active in participation then expected to be passive. Frustrated with double talk and over hyped promises fueled by slick marketing and media the people began to question the integrity of the message which bled over to questioning the relationship with the product, the service and the entire “system” called business. In many cases the “tricks of the trade”, the methods and mass media has influenced our entire culture.

And We Wonder Why the Social Web has Become So Social

In Dec. 07 there were 10 Billion views of videos on YouTube. MySpace.com is now processing 2.2 Billion page views per day. Facebook has more than 65 billion page views per month. Facebook has more than half of active users return daily. People spend an average of 20 minutes on the site daily (comScore).

With 600 million people having profiles in social networks that represents TRILLIONS of page views per day. With another 60 Million blogs in the market and hundreds of millions of web sites, this is just a sampling of the current social activity, not the total picture. Participation and conversations are growing daily and rapidly. People have a lot to say, a lot to share and have now found not only an outlet to speak but a large audience of influence that agree on an affinity of issues that will and does impact every business; the culture, the relationships, the transactions and the markets.

Henry Jenkins writes: Corporations will allow the public to participate in the construction and representation of their creations or they will, eventually, compromise the commercial value of their properties. The new consumer will help to create value or they will refuse it… Corporations have a right to keep copyright but they have an interest in releasing it.” –Grant McCracken (1997)

“At the most basic level, the distribution and publicity mechanisms of networked computing renders visible the often “invisible” labor fans perform in supporting their favorite properties.” As Jenkins explains: “If old consumers were assumed to be passive, then new consumers are active. If old consumers were predictable and stayed where you told them, then new consumers are migratory, showing a declining loyalty to networks or media. If old consumers were isolated individuals, then new consumers are more socially connected. If the work of media consumers was once silent and invisible, then new consumers are now noisy and public (Jenkins 2006a, pp. 18-19).”

What Choice Does a Business Have?

For a business to survive, prosper and grow satisfied customers and employees is a must, not an option. The quality of a product, a service, and a brand is largely influenced by the “voice of the market”, the “voice of the customer” and the ability of the business to respond to those “voices” dynamically and effectively. As Jenkins says “Corporations will allow the public to participate in the construction and representation of their creations or they will, eventually, compromise the commercial value of their properties”.

If you don’t want to compromise your value then listen to the people and they’ll gladly tell you how to not only maintain it but improve it and then they will tell others whether your prepared to understand and act on what they are saying, one to one to millions. After all, isn’t that what you asked for? Well now you’ve got it but what will you do with it?

What say you?

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