When we say “social” these days, we mostly mean the sites and services of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and other commercial entities. Not talking on the phone or in person. Not meeting at a café. Not blogging, or emailing or even texting. Those things are all retro and passé. Worse, they’re not what marketers get high off of these days. Meaning they’re outside the Big Data ecosystem, most of which is devoted to improving the vast business of guesswork we call advertising, flowing outward increasingly through digital media.
The marketplace where all the Big Bux are being spent these day is not the public one where culture is made and goods are bought and sold. It’s the marketing marketplace.
Go to SelectOut.org. See who and what is tracking you right now. Chances are it’s more than a few of the hundreds of companies listed here. The market they’re in is putting better crosshairs on your back and your wallet. Not the one where you live and you shop.
Their market is in selling your ass to advertisers. So is Twitter’s, for that matter. It’s not serving you as a customer. You are a consumer. Your job is to consume “content,” and hopefully every once in awhile also click on stuff you might buy. That’s it. Yes, it’s a trade-off, but it’s not a very conscious one, and it’s not very “social,” either. Not when you don’t really know the company, or have a relationship with human beings there. Ever tried to call customer service at Facebook? Or hell, at Google? They don’t do that. They don’t want to get personal with you, even if they give you free personal services. Again, you’re not the customer. You’re inventory.
What’s missing here is real innovation in the real marketplace. (Besides what’s going on in VRM, of course.)
I had two ideas today. One is that if we can trade emissions at a corporate level, we should be able to trade consumption. So if we can track consumption of goods, and the sustainability of those goods, we have the rudiments of a market for consumption. So why not offer (wealthy, western, northern) people the chance to pay extra for an offset for their iPad like they do with their plane ticket?
My other idea was based on the ever present loyalty cards for grocery stores, pharmacies, and even cupcake shops in the US. You give away your personal data in return for lower prices (although I often use the algorithm of [local area code of store] + 867-5309). Why not something similar for sustainable goods? Either you pay the full price, or you pony up your data to save the world. Also you get a sticker to put on your computer to show how much better you are than other people – and that’s big, because being proud of being a sustainable consumer is currently, and unfortunately, densely tied to being one.
Both here and in conversation, John posed an interesting question: If personal data really is an “asset class,” as the World Economic Forum says it is, shouldn’t we be able to sell it? Or to make it fungible in some other way?
John’s second idea raises two interesting questions:
- Who would buy your personal data?
- What would they use it for?
Especially when, right now, lots of companies you don’t know (and a few you do) are getting that data for free. Would they pay more than nothing for it? If not, is it possible that it really is worth nothing?
When I ask questions like the two above, the answer I usually get is marketers and marketing. Some of the data you shed in the course of surfing and shopping helps sellers remember and serve you. Amazon always comes up as a canonical example. But even there Amazon is often suggesting books I’ve already bought or would hardly be interested in. Grocery stores, meanwhile, mostly use my shopping data to push coupons for stuff I bought once and might never buy again. The whole loyalty card game is one reason we do most of our grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, which doesn’t bother with any gimmicks, and gives great service as well.
Here’s where I’m going with this: The marketplace that matters is the primary one where we live and work and shop. Not the secondary one where people we don’t know are sniffing our digital butts to see what we’ve consumed and might want to consume instead (or again).
I’m about to lead a session at the Social Business Jam, on Seamless Integration of Social. In the spirit of Dave Winer’s bailing from Facebook today, I’d like to suggest that we look at how social works in real markets, and why we keep mistaking closed private markets on the Web for real ones.
For evidence of how far off base we are, here’s Zemanta‘s list of articles related to what I’ve been writing about here:
- Now this is how you launch your new social startup [Video] thenextweb.com)
- PlacePop Releases Virtual Loyalty Card Application for Android Smartphones prweb.com)
- Social Passport Reinvents QR Codes prweb.com)
- How Much Are Social Networks Really Impacting Shopping Habits? paidcontent.org)
- What’s the Social Marketplace & Why Should You Care hubspot.com)
- iPhone App First to Allow Businesses to Replace Traditional Loyalty Cards prweb.com)
- How to Build Brand Loyalty in a Digital Marketplace blogs.forbes.com)
- Accel Launches “Big Data” Initiative blogs.wsj.com)
- ATG launches theatre loyalty card (guardian.co.uk)
- 4 Valuable Link Building Services (Zemanta, MyBlogGuest, EightfoldLogic & Whitespark) seomoz.org)
- Top SEOmoz Posts, Comments & Users of 2010 seomoz.org)
- Robert Scoble: A note to Dave Winer and Fred Wilson scobleizer.com)
- Facebook And eBay Team Up To Breathe New Life Into Social Commerce techcrunch.com)
- Trick to Use When You Don’t Have a Loyalty Card twofrugalfairfielders.wordpress.com)
- Identity Bureau, transferable synthetic British natural person we-make-money-not-art.com)
- Trada Brings Crowdsourced Advertising Marketplace To Facebook techcrunch.com)
- Facebook Backer Launches ‘Big Data’ Fund adweek.com)
- With $3 Million Raised, Flow Aims To Connect The World’s Apps, Through Data techcrunch.com)
- ATG launches theatre loyalty card (guardian.co.uk)
- Infolinks Launches World’s First In-Text Ads Marketplace johnchow.com)
- Small Coffee, Large Bill gilliansblog.wordpress.com)
- Crowdsource Facebook Ad Campaigns With Trada allfacebook.com)
- Is the cloud driving the new marketplace? venturebeat.com)
- ARM Insight Introduces Unique Prepaid Card Loyalty Service prweb.com)
- Changers Debuts World’s First Social Energy Marketplace: Changers.com prweb.com)
- And All That Stuff runway.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Loyalty cards: how do they compare? confused.com)
- Yardsellr, The eBay For Facebook, Grows To 5 Million Strong, Rebrands; Launches Marketplace For Fashion techcrunch.com)
And, as a small counterweight to that dollarfall of investment and buzz, A Sense of Bewronging.
See ya at the jam.