“When you’re socializing and self-expressing and your sense of personal worth is also based in how many ‘likes’ you have, it’s kind of important, I think, for people to understand not that this is bad, but for people to understand that they’re living their social lives in a marketplace, and what does that do to the way you think about yourself?” (Rushkoff)
The term that struck me here is “marketplace”. This is something I know exists in the world of social media, but never considered a part of my everyday, personal use. In the back of my mind, I am aware of data mining and data collection. I have read articles, seen documentaries or TedTalks on the concept, but somehow whenever I post on Instagram or write a Tweet, I am not thinking about these concepts; about how other people, besides my followers are tracking what I share or write, and are using it to create a profile on myself, as a consumer. When big companies talk about data collection they make it sound innocent and beneficial to the consumer. They highlight how their work in this field helps them to better understand you and make products or content that express your needs and wants. As a marketing student I stand behind the concept of getting to know your customer and catering to their needs, but as a social media user, I find myself a bit creeped out. I am not entirely sure why, but if I had to venture a guess I think this emotion comes from a concern for my general privacy. As someone who was raised during the dawn of new technologies and experienced the release of social media apps, I am always aware of how this can affect my privacy. How choosing to participate is essentially signing a contract saying that you are releasing some of your rights to your privacy. At the same time, I am the curator of my own content and if I do not want something online, I do have the power not to put it there. However, I am not the creator of other people’s content and many have fallen victim to the backlash of what happens when someone else shares content that you do not want online; it is nearly impossible to erase something from the internet permanently.
So, here is the conundrum: now being more conscious of the fact that social media is indeed a “marketplace” and companies are able to profit from content I like or share, am I going to cease my participation? No, I am certainly going to continue using all of my favorite social media applications. Additionally, the truth of the matter is that in a few weeks this information, like with data mining, will just be another bit of information that resides in the back of my mind and does not affect my social media use. Does this make me an irresponsible user? And how bad is this use of social media as a marketplace? I am not entirely sure, but I can say, in my own opinion, that social media will only continue to grow. Which means the opportunities for profit will only increase and what this will change social media into… I am not sure.
Now, let’s talk about “social consumers”.
The way I see it when online shopping and advertisements online first arose people trusted them. Believed that when they made a purchase online they were guaranteed the product they intended to receive. Now, this is not the case. With so many stories about fraudulent websites and purchases, consumers not getting what they intended, etc. a distrust has formed. Enter the social consumer. We now feel a sense of responsibility to check the validity of websites before giving them our credit card information or attempting to buy their products. The social consumer reads reviews, blogs and consults their friends before blindly trusting the internet. Now, while this is smart on the consumer’s part, it certainly adds a new challenge to the plate of the marketer. In addition to getting the consumer to want to buy the product, they now have to get the consumer to feel COMFORTABLE buying the product. If you’re a socially responsible company you will allow your product to live on the internet as it truly exists. Here is what I mean: The company allows candid reviews on their products which they allow to be publically viewed on their website and if there are concerns, they use them to make their products better. If you are not a socially responsible company, you monitor these reviews by taking down the bad ones or you pay people to write glowing reviews, even if they do not reflect the true nature of your product. Just knowing that companies have this power is another reason marketers have to work that much harder to get the consumer to trust their brand.
How can we make the consumer trust our brand?
I think the key is proper interaction. Let the consumer know that if there is an issue, you are more than willing to make a change in order to solve it. Try to respond to their concerns online, whether that is by commenting on their post or sending them a personal email. A company that seems to excel in this area is Starbucks. They have an idea website where consumers can freely voice their concerns, wants or ideas for products they wish to see in stores or even commend the company for what they are doing right. This is really special because it has given their customers a place to talk to the company directly because that is what the website is intended for! Starbucks is saying YES PLEASE talk to us and tell us how we can make your experience better. This is not something a lot of companies would want to participate in unless they are confident in their ability to make changes or fully stand behind their mission statement. I think that all companies should strive to reach this bar that Starbucks has set.