The author posits that social media will transform the way we live and the way we do business.
As an individual "you need to live your life as if your mother is watching" because with social media, she may well be - and so will be the person who decides if you are admitted to college, hired for a job, promoted, etc. The age in which it was possible to maintain different personalities - to be an entirely different person at work than you are in your private life, is likely over. (EN: Per my point earlier in the book, it has only existed for a few generations anyway - people who spend their entire life in one place never had that ability to begin with.) At the same time, social media prompts us to be better people - to have something to say for ourselves other than "I sat home all weekend watching reruns" requires us to go out and do things that are worth blogging about.
But the social media also require companies to have integrity: those with poor products or services cannot count on the ability to deceive the unwary with marketing messages that they control. They can't expect new customers to be ignorant of the way they have treated their old ones, or their old ones to be ignorant of the sweetheart deals they are offering new ones.
Sponsor-paid commercial messaging has lost its credibility, and the consumer relies on information from other consumers to determine whether products are worth trying. "Businesses need to be comfortable with consumers taking ownership of their brands. (EN: because they already have, and not just lately.)
Marketing will become less about convincing the customer that a company's products are a right for them, and more about gathering information from the customers to inform the company of the kinds of products it needs to build to serve the customer.
This should not be viewed as a negative change by the business - their role has always been to serve the customer and provide products and services that are valued, and it has always been difficult for them to do so because "what the customer wants" was the guess, often ill-informed, of a small number of insiders. When the customer can tell you what he wants, there is less room for error.
(EN: There's still a lot of push-back on this, and I get it from the most unlikely places - the notion that people don't know what they want until someone else shows them. This will likely remain true, and there will still be the need for an inventor or designer to discover something that the general public would never have imagined, but not all inventions or designs are accepted, and validating ideas with the customer before production will reduce the number of instances in which the first sign that a product is not what customers want is a pile of unsold inventory.)
Winners and Losers
The author provides some arbitrary lists of parties, sometimes quite abstracted, that will "win" or "lose" from social media. Some interesting points are preserved:
- Companies that deliver products of genuine value will win - those that have attempted to use marketing tricks to hide their shortcomings will lose.
- Companies with a genuine interest in serving the customer will win - those whose motive is to make money and deliver as little as possible in return will lose
- Companies that are nimble and can make changes quickly will win - those that are unwilling to change or are too slow to implement changes will lose
- Employees who have genuine skills will win - those who are skilled at padding their resume with ambiguities and half-truths will lose
- Producers who can directly serve their customers will win - and the various middlemen such as advertising agencies and media will lose