Thursday, February 3, 2011

Resisting Crowd-Sourcing My Opinion

I've been a fan of Malcolm Gladwell's for quite sometime and have been monitoring with great interest and amusement the debate surrounding his discussion of social media and its role (or non-role) as a channel for the new activism. Although Gladwell acknowledges the power of the "weak ties" that are enabled by the thousands of connections made possible via Facebook, Twitter, etc., he contrasts the power of this channel to actual F2F social challenge of history. As I have preached often, the power of social networking is only realized when we embed our digital dialogue and debate with as much of our in-person behavior as possible (I don't mean emoticons) and we individually challenge opinion and invite new thought and nuance. In other words, let's not get lazy and default to "Like" versus listen and exchange.

A colleague of mine has suggested that Facebook ought to offer a "Dislike" button. That's a little better. What if we digital couch potatoes had at minimum, the opportunity to disagree easily? Would that spur a little more independent thought and engagement? I know that we marketing folk like to look for prevailing trends, but I, perhaps perversely, am rabidly curious about anomalies as well. I think it behooves any operational group: customer service, development, sales and marketing; to at least explore why a customer would vary from the norm. If 75% of a survey group is interested in a new product, but just one out of 400 respondents takes the time to not only indicate that they are NOT interested, but chooses to provide some reason, is that not worth our attention? I've always made a case that if organizations choose to be "out there" in the world of social media and networking, they must include these channels as part of their integrated marketing, customer service, etc. channel FIRST and be prepared to address, in some fashion, ALL offered opinions. (I don't necessarily mean that we have to individually address every Tweet, post, blog comment, etc.)

The bottom line is that I perhaps suffer from a case of terminal uniqueness or perhaps my ego is too large to think I can just "join the cause" or jump on the bandwagon without offering my own spin or thoughts. I expect and demand deeper conversation as a result of my digital dialogue and am not entranced by the numbers of followers or friends that I have but the quality of the engagement. To the extent possible, I attempt to extend this approach to my B2B and B2C relationships as well. Of course, we have to model the majority of our approach to the common customer denominator, but if we pay attention, I believe that the diversity of opinion is illuminating.