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The Birth Pains of A New Social Contract and Airbnb

Mythbusting - the 5 greatest myths of digital marketing culture

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  1. Identity
    People don't have and will not have only one identity online.  We all have have many identities.  Sometimes you are yourself.  Sometimes you are a fictitious name.  Sometimes you invest more in your fictitious name than your real name.  And sometimes some people represent other people, legitimately or illegitimately.  The nature of each platform or dynamic will vary greatly based on the cultural norms of the platform, principle among them being identity.  That said, brands must always be real and present if they want to be valued.  The mainstream is clearly to be trending towards "real people, real names", but this space is far from done evolving.  Calling this space as having arrived or completed evolving is arrogant and short-sighted.  My name is Jon Burg.  But sometimes it's just JB.  And sometimes it's JonDoeB.  And sometimes it's something totally different.  

    Think Facebook has this space cornered?  Just look at the comments on YouTube.
  2. Privacy
    While politicians and the mainstream media demand that stronger privacy laws be put in place, these laws will not create privacy where users don't recognize the need for it.  The digital privacy debate is over fifteen years old, yet most people are willing to forgo much of their privacy if it requires that they learn how to use advanced features in a browser or have to pay for their content.

    That said, there are two primary areas where people actually care about privacy:
    A. Most people want a degree of privacy when the subject is close to them on a personal level.  For example, this could include protecting pictures of one's children on Facebook
    B: People care a lot about security.  Privacy and security however, are not the same thing. For example, people expect that their private messages on Twitter and all of their email will remain private.  However, this is primarily a security concern, not a privacy concern.  These are two very different things.
  3. Gamification
    Gamification is a form of user experience design that often leverages certain mechanics.  This is not about the mechanics.  Not a week goes by that I don't hear at least three discussions that include "Let's make it into a viral game and add badges".  Badges don't make it a game, nor do they make it social.  If you think that little of your audience, they will think the same of your communications.  Gamification isn't a magic pill. Additionally, even the top social games have struggled to sustain their audiences beyond a 6-9 month window. 
  4. Relationships
    Most brands haven't done enough in social to deserve a meaningful relationship with their customers in social.  A Facebook fan isn't a real relationship yet, it's a possible subscription to additional information.  This is like a girl accepting an invitation for a first date.  It could be the start of something great.  However, if both of you don't value the relationship after those first few interactions/dates, there isn't much of a relationship.  Additionally, most brand-consumer relationships are less than monogamous (few brands have strong loyalty).  Relationships aren't a myth, but the strength and meaning claimed by many leaders in this space is far from reality far too much of the time. 
  5. Service
    Great service is fantastic, regardless of the channel.  People are likely seeking your service in social because they aren't getting it, or don't expect to get it via traditional channels.  Social service will no longer be a brilliant marketing play when everyone offers it.  Additionally, when everyone is offering decent social service, many will seek to differentiate themselves by offering stronger compensation, resulting in a post-purchase pricing war to the bottom.

    Social service must be a bridge into a relationship (see above) that leads to preference, loyalty and ultimately advocacy.  Additionally, social service must be properly setup both from a process and strategic positioning place.  For example, when social service is used as a diagnostic to learn about your business, product and service needs, you're helping the business.  When all you're doing is helping complainers, you're rewarding the loudest complainers and encouraging future public complaining.

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