Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Challenging the Social Media Mindset

I saw an interesting note on social bookmarking site del.icio.us this morning. The comment, designed as an incentive for potential users to sign up with the service, simply states 'it's free!'. Whilst I recognize the clear appeal of promoting a service as 'free', we need to examine this statement in context; social platforms are allowing us to provide them with content and information at no personal expense to ourselves. A very generous offer, but something feels a little wrong with this picture...

Over the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about user generated content ownership. Statements designed to lure in unsuspecting prospects are commonplace throughout social media signup pages, invariably leading us to the assumption that it is we that are benefiting from this 'generous' proposal. Whilst I will be examining the motivation for users to generate content in an upcoming post, for now I feel that it is appropriate to examine a change of mindset.

The numerous social media platforms offer a forum only; a place in which users may gather electronically to discuss whatever is on their minds. Without this community however, the space offers very little value. Whilst many people assume that social media giants such as Facebook are the major influencers within their respective social niches, the valuations thereof are based extensively upon the perceived value of the communities therein. Power clearly rests in the hands of the users; it's simply down to the community at large to recognize this.

Whilst this post is not designed to incite mass community revolution, as the economy worsens, the importance of offering truly unique value to the user will become increasingly critical for the ongoing viability of the business. Further, as platform users increasingly recognise the influence which they have over the placement of their content, the importance of adequate organisational realisation of community needs rises. As such, it will no longer be appropriate to attempt to manipulate consumer demands through forced developments or service failures.

As the community becomes increasingly demanding, those organisations that continue to place the customer first will enjoy success. Conversely, those that attempt to manipulate the community will be exposed, and will invariably find themselves the subject of significant negative online publicity. In sum, the the road to success has deviated very little. The question is though, are you listening to your community?

What do you think? Will empowering the community result in improved service offerings from social platforms or conversely increasingly unrealistic demands from a fickle community? As always, would love to hear your thoughts.


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