The consumer is dead. Individual consumers have joined millions of private networks, and by doing so have metamorphosed to become something new. The private network is more now than the sum of its consumers. The consumer, like the tadpole, has found its path to new sophistication as a higher order of consciousness and being as the private network. The migration to existence as a network is in full swing in the digital ether. The consumer protoplasm at the base of our socio-economic system is restructuring and enabling itself. The process has only begun. What will we become?
Why are we changing? Technological advances in the speed of data transfer and the capacity for data storage reached a critical mass where network communication online was viable. The choice between network communication in real time and consumer communication at the whim of the owners of broadcast, print, wire and cable infrastructure is a no brainer. The private digital network offers more power, influence and freedom. It’s a better life for a former single celled organism.
Marshall McCluhan wrote in 1964 that the electric light was a perfect example of a new medium devoid of content. A new bright space in the former darkness. The digital social medium is the newest bright space in a former darkness, and now as before, the medium is the message. Everybody it seems is on a path to take up residence in the digital ether.
Don’t be confused by the shabby condos and hotel rooms you have to live in when you arrive in digital. Twitter and Facebook aren’t the message. The space in which they can exist is the message. Like all migration, better accomodation will be built down the line. 140 characters is the equivalent of living in a hotel sock drawer with duct tape over your mouth. However, its a place to set up while we work out how to network from our own URL’s. Why are we living in the the digital ether in borrowed accomodation by the way? Curious behavior when the digital ether is an infinite space and we can all have our own URL’s. I think it may be time for the networks to build their own social applications so they can engage from their own URL’s. They couldn’t do worse in the design of functionality, that’s for sure. Why are we allowing a couple of companies with the imaginations of trailer park sites, to monopolize and dictate the terms of network social relations anyway?
Time for the social application to come home to the private networks? Time for a non profit owned and open sourced application to bring the social functionality and the revenues home to the private networks? Mmmmmm. That sounds good to me.
Through this metamorphosis, the aggregation of consumers into private networks has resulted in the network, and therefore the consumer within it, acquiring volition. It may be the volition of an infant at this time, but it is volition all the same.
Private networks may now receive and distribute information without dependence on the pathways of traditional media networks. Private networks may now create private content without dependence on traditional media networks for reward or distribution. Private networks may now influence, amplify and accelerate opinions and preferences without dependence on the pathways or owners of traditional media networks.
In fact, as we have seen many times recently with events like the problems with the Apple iPhone 4 antenna and the subsequent censorship of Apple’s Facebook wall, there is rarely a day which passes now without the machinations of social media making news in the traditional media networks. Black as white. Up as down. Effect as cause. The consumer as newsmaker and distributor.
The owners of broadcast and print media must now compete with private networks for content, distribution and market share.
Our socio-political wiring diagram is in a state of magnificent flux. It may or may not be a political revolution, but is most definitely a metamorphosis of the psyche. From Id to Ego and Super Ego, I am network. Long live the democratization of content and distribution.
The omission or inclusion of content by traditional networks no longer means a black out for the hapless consumer at the base of the information distribution pyramid.
Private networks can now direct information horizontally and independently of traditional media channels. If information or opinion is ignored, omitted, emphasized, underemphasized or distorted by reference to the interests of private networks, those networks can and do act independently to share information. It’s harder to keep secrets. It’s harder to wait out consumer’s memories by keeping a controlling silence. The truth as an idea has become even more opaque It’s harder to determine the objective basis of information, if only because of the inherent number of sources and their interests.
All the old structures for the accreditation of opinion as truth are in decay. What does it mean to be a journalist? What does it mean to be a scientist? What does it mean to be a doctor or a teacher? In the digital ether, possession of information offers its own accreditation. All brands take heed.
So why are so many companies still either ignoring these private networks or treating them as if they were undifferentiated consumer protoplasm? It is clear that at the moment that the best most companies can conceive is to roll out the old telephony model in answer to this new digital realm of customer relations. I constantly see Fortune 500 companies approaching unhappy customers online in Twitter and Facebook only to ask that they contact Customer Service using the telephone or email. Really? You are going to ask me to make a private call to an outsourced Indian customer service backwater, when I have 22,000 followers on Twitter and each of them has a following averaging 1,000 people. That’s an extended network of 22,000,000. Really? Are you out of your cotton picking mind? I’ll tweet before I call.
I constantly see Fortune 500 companies fail to even acknowledge brand advocacy online. You have a potential audience of 22,000,000 and you won’t thank me or acknowledge me when I say I am happy with the brand in public. What are you thinking?
A digital network needs a telephone to communicate like an airplane needs rails. Networks need to be engaged where they engage (not only at your web site, Twitter account or Facebook wall), human to human and in real time. So start stroking and start spending now, as are your competitors.
I am network. The potential risks and benefits relating to delivering or failing to achieve my satisfaction have increased geometrically. My dissatisfaction can mean network dissatisfaction. My satisfaction may not only make me a brand advocates, it may make my network a super brand advocate.
Companies seem to have largely missed the underlying promise and threat of this metamorphosis. There is a monumental potential scalability to relay both positive and negative information around your brand in social media over accelerated timeframes.
I suggest we all reevaluate our investment and commitment to network satisfaction and brand promise.
The consumer is dead. Long live the network.