Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Coining a Term Today: Frienomenon

Admittedly, I'm not much a social anything (just ask my mother, she will tell you). But I've been lurking in social media long enough to know one thing: Bloggers, bigwigs of subscription-based e-blasts, myspacers, virtual community leaders, message board/chat room moderators, citizen journalists and the like often put themselves--or their personas, who can say?--"out there," create a sense of familiarity with their audience, and are then surprised that people respond to them as colleagues or friends due to a sense of commonality, respect, or connectedness. I call this phenomemon appropriately enough "frienomenon." It's the inability to recognize the inviting and illiciting (soliciting?) of feedback, dialogue, and relationships with strangers via technology and to be accountable for or responsive to those exchanges. To make matters worse, we all have our own rules and expectations and oftentimes the "social contracts" are vague--or worse, unstated. This is a real shame because there's plenty of room on the web to publish your manifesto. "Why should this matter to me," you ask? Here's how "frienomenon" affects you as a small business owner interested in social/online marketing, word of mouth advertising, social networking, etc.: If you are engaging in this activity using technology and/or if other folks are on your behalf (or not), all that's available publicly is an extension of your brand and therefore needs attention. In this wired world, we all have a voice. So if upholding a brand image of I'm-an-industry-god-you're-a-nobody works for you, by all means act that way consistently online--and tell people what rights they'll be relinquishing upfront and how you'll make them pay if they break your rules. In other words, make it a point to act like a jerk publicly and thrill your readers with Schadenfreude. I can think of a design teacher who does this right now, and I applaud his efforts, although he scares me and I wouldn't necessarily advise that path outside the ivory tower. But at least there are no surprises with him! But if you project ponies and rainbows and pots of gold, be prepared to get and respond to requests for magic. Bottom line: truth and consistency in marketing across media and communications should always be the goal.

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