Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Anniversary lessons from… the internet

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The Economist has an excellent leader article about what important lessons the remarkable
tale of eBay’s growth points to for any business
trying to operate online. Today that includes, one way or another,
most firms.

The commercial opportunities presented by an expanding
global web seem almost limitless. But the pace of change is rapid, and
so is the ferocity of competition. To succeed, firms need agility, an
open mind and the ability to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Most of
all, they need to listen carefully to their customers, paying close
attention to what they do and don’t want. Such qualities,
of course, would be valuable in any kind of business. Yet for online
firms they are not a luxury, but necessary for mere survival.

Hence their writing on the wall for the marketing industry about the ‘empowered consumer‘. They translate the many-to-many nature of the internet into the need to pay attention to every whim of the customers. Which is good advice, but I would go even further – businesses should understand that the barrier separating them and the ‘consumers’ is breaking down. Their employees are the same people who create the ‘consumer class’ and
the big divide between the ‘broadcaster of the message’ and the ‘target
audience’ is no longer what it used to be in the industrial era of mass
production and pretty much mass everything…

The Economist looks at the entire landscape, sees the changes but does not go beyond the company and industry edifice:

The internet is not only growing, but
changing rapidly—which, in turn, changes the rules of the game for any
business relying on it. The barriers to entry are still low compared
with those for most offline businesses, which means that just keeping
track of your existing rivals is not enough. These may not represent
the greatest competitive threat tomorrow or the next day. That could
come from a number of directions—a firm in a different type of online
business; one that does not yet exist; or even from one of your own
customers. On top of all this, the behaviour of many consumers is
constantly changing as well, as individuals discover new ways to shop
and interact with each other via the web.

Here
we go, finally a mention of the most fundamental change that the
internet has cause in how we conduct our affairs. The user rulez. We
now have a ‘new tech sector’ where technologies emerge and spread like
wildfire as users are designing, developing and inventing things for
other users. This has major implications on both the functionality and
the format of what is being created -  modular, inexpensive, constantly
evolving and above all often capable of doing more than large corporate
’solutions’.

All these
factors make the internet a dangerous place to do business, as well as
one full of promise. For managers
of any business, the lessons of eBay are both exhilarating and
daunting: the prizes offered by the internet are dazzling by any
measure, but only those who can satisfy the demanding and changing
tastes of consumers, the internet’s true sovereigns, will survive to
enjoy them.

Indeed.
It is about paying attention not to your consumers but to the dymanics
of this ‘dangerous place’ in order to fully immerse yourself in it. The
blogosphere to me is like a Petri dish, where I can observe, analyse
and understand what drives people, their interactions, communications,
connectivity, innovation and creativy – and all those social dynamics
that the online has become synonymous with. I can do this not because
of some external ‘qualitifications’, ‘methodologies’ and ‘analytics’
but because I have been part of it for some time and my understanding
comes from understanding the impact on the individual. From that, over
time and with interaction with many other bloggers I have built up a
clear picture of how that understanding can be extrapolated and applied
to businesses. All rather straigthforward, really. And most of all, fun
to see it work…

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