Nobody is Nobody. Everybody is Somebody.
We live in an age of entitlement now. I guess it sort of comes with the territory when a form of communication presents itself that is no longer one way, but two ways and many other ways in between. I am talking, of course, about twitter, facebook pages, the mobile web and so forth – social media.
People and brands alike have enjoyed (and sometimes lamented) the power of word of mouth for centuries but never before has new spread from person to person with the capacity and speed afforded by the social web. No longer must we wait till the news write up in the paper the next morning or wonder what’s on the 6 or 11 o’clock news to get the scoop on what’s happening around us. What’s more is that we can now provide instant feedback on any news we hear about moments after it ticks by on our twitter feeds.
Social lives have changed too. While we still protect our privacy to some degree we are more willing to share things online that we normally would not in a traditional social scenario (i.e. a cocktail party). We Live In Public‘s Josh Harris predicted that we would all give up our privacy online just for our 15 seconds of fame and recognition. While I still disagree with the extremity of his claim (i.e. I still don’t think we’re going to install webcams in all our living rooms and bathrooms as he did) people are using the social web to make a big deal about themselves whether it is for the purpose of getting invited to some exclusive party, get free swag, promote their web presence in whatever form, or just speak their mind without too much fear of immediate repercussions. So in a way, Harris was right but nowhere near to the extent he so arrogantly proposed.
While people on the social web “give up” their privacy as “social currency” (for example providing an email address, a follow, a Like) brands in turn give away the farm in many cases. You see it happen on group buying sites where businesses pretty much bend over backwards to give deep discounts and then have to deal with disgruntled customers who come in a few weeks later expecting the same deal, chomping at the bit to chirp them on Twitter when they don’t get what they want. You see the same phenomenon when a blogger or tweeter writes a complaint to his/her followers about some cell phone carrier that allegedly screwed them in some way. The list of scenarios goes on but the point is that business are spending and losing lots of money to appear accountable to the public on the social web and get rewarded a lot of the time with flak. I think that’s very commendable on the part of any business that would be brave enough to open their ports to the social web but it sort of grinds my gears when I see people take advantage of that and try to squeeze blood from the stone, so to speak.
Businesses on the social web now want you to feel special but it can go too far sometimes and it could hurt the ecosystem that balances the give and take between brand and customer. A phrase sort of popped into my head today as I was pondering this phenomenon of entitlement and the above issue. The phrase is this:
Nobody is nobody. Everybody is somebody. Just don’t let it go to your head.
Perhaps a mantra to describe the middle ground that I think could be created between the denizens of the social web and brands/businesses/causes that seek to engage their public without going overboard on what they give away. Yes, we give some of our privacy away when we get on Facebook, twitter, google+ etc so we should be recognized by brands for stepping out into the open and being identifiable and directly reachable. It’s a great metric for businesses to know exactly who they are dealing with now whereas before the social web there was a lot of guesswork on their part. The public still appreciates being made to feel special almost as a “thank you” for using a brand’s product (i.e. the Budweiser Winner’s Circle at the Honda Indy) but it should be recognized that Bud gave away a lot of product to market to you and throw such a swell party. Even though I was not paid to attend, I thanked Bud and Edelman with a blog post and some great pics.
In this sort of equal interchange I think the balance lies. Continuing with the Honda Indy example, although there were definitely some social media heavy hitters scattered throughout the Winner’s Circle 99% of people there were non-web folks just enjoying the event VIP style courtesy of Bud.
I guess in a long-winded fashion I am just hoping that in some form or another, social media folks make sure to say “thank you” and be a little more patient with the brands that have hooked them up along the way and continue to go to great lengths to satisfy our fickle needs.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome below.