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Any messages?

Editorial | August 1, 2018 | By:

You want to know what to buy? The business that makes an object of desire is now the worst source of information about it. The best source is all of us.

Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Two “Cluetrain Manifesto”  authors, Jan. 2015

Communication is content. Markets are conversations. Electronics are (nearly) ubiquitous. And Generations Y and Z can’t have a single meal without putting a photo of it on a Facebook page, seemingly; I asked my niece about it, who just turned 40 and actually owns a Selfie Stick, but she just shrugged. I can recall my fondness for phone communication as a child, especially the “Is Sam there?”series, which we thought far more sophisticated than other popular phone pranks of the time. (“Is your refrigerator running?” Please.)

It goes like this: you and one or two friends select a number at random and call every ten or 15 minutes for at least an hour, simply asking “Is Sam there?” Eventually, one of you calls that same number and says “This is Sam. Any messages?”

Naturally, this all took place not only before Caller ID, but during the times of party lines. When we made a call, we could never be absolutely certain that a neighbor wasn’t silently listening in. And,
of course, they couldn’t be sure that we weren’t doing the same. It seems eerily prophetic.

Since then, the internet has exploded to fill empty air space throughout the globe, offering instant access to information. And since that eruption, the world’s infinite communication medium has been sliced, diced, apped, taxed, regulated, restricted and recorded. Every time we log in, we’re providing more information about ourselves. Online privacy is (virtually) non-existent.

Enter social media marketing. According to reports from the 2018 Social Media Week NYC, using data to understand  a niche community of customers helps a business create content that’s meaningful and powerful, fostering a memorable relationship between business and customer. Authenticity builds trust. Transparency is sustainable. Value creates loyalty. (And why does that suddenly seem so Orwellian?)

Has the nature of marketing really changed, or is it mostly a matter of medium, not message? If you provide your employees with meaningful work, fair compensation, opportunity for advancement and free parking, does it really matter how old they are? And if you provide potential customers with a valuable product, excellent service and regular follow-through, does it matter if they’ve posted comments on your photo of today’s company lunch on Facebook?

As an unrepentant Boomer, I feel that I value my online privacy more than I do my online community. I’m sure that I purchase things because I planned to, not because a marketing message pushed all the right buttons. And yet … didn’t I just order two Demotivator® mugs from Despair Inc. because their email advised me that “Hundreds of years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove … But the world may be different because I did something so bafflingly crazy that my ruins become a tourist attraction.”

Can that be printed on an awning?

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