links for 2008-02-19
Elmo Live : the evolution of a toy

ecosystems of anonymity - truth in the digital divide

Anonymity In the words of a famous television character, "Everybody lies".

How would we market differently if were to operate in an ecosystem where everybody did in fact, lie?

Disclaimer: I don't believe that we lie all that pervasively on a regular basis.  As a society, we generally interact with a fair degree of decency, fairness and mutual understanding/respect. 

Yet when when there is no accountability, when there is no recourse, when we are operating from behind the shadows of our computers, everything changes. 

Men often present as women in Second Life.  YouTube comments seem to be authored almost entirely by the mentally unstable.  MySpacers are "friends" with complete strangers.  And all too often, social leaders (both religious and political) are exposed for leading dual lives online.

In a medium where users can become, act, or experience anything their hearts desire, it is understandable that many will experiment with alternatives/fantasys to their real-world lives.  The appeal of the escape into the anonymity of digital media is often quite strong.

Which raises the question, how does this alternative reality impact our "real" reality?  How should marketers approach the digital divide? 

  • How do brand experiences within an alternative reality impact the user perception of the brand once they migrate back into the "real" world?
    • Towards that end, if users ARE in fact impacted by the experiences and interactions they have while in operating in a virtual fantasy (as most digital marketers would like to believe), wouldn't it stand to reason that spouses experimenting in virtual extra-martial experimentation are destroying their real world marriages? 
    • And wouldn't it stand to reason that teens experimenting with virtual violence would somehow carry this experience into the real world in a lasting, behavioral manner? 
    • Where do we draw the line regarding fantasy transferal into reality?
  • Should marketers change their strategies and tactics to address the nature of the user identity, persona and modality within a given platform?
  • How does this effect social media marketing overall?
  • How does this effect social media listening? 
    • Do we assume that all/most conversations are relevant and real reflections on real world sentiment and behavior?
    • Do we assume that everyone presenting as male/female is male/female?
    • Do we present a larger margin of error based on these variables
      • How can we calculate the size of this margin?
  • Most importantly, what new opportunities does this world of fantasy and anonymity open for marketers beyond their brand traditional offerings?