How Network Culture is Revolutionizing Business
The Age of Contagious Companies, Viral Markets, and the Digital Explosion
McGraw-Hill, 2008, 257 pp., ISBN 978-0-07-154562-4
Hayes is a "tastemaker" for the net generation and a marketing maverick. His blog, Tombomb.com has a euphonic ring to it. This book attempts to predict how business, marketing and life will change when 3 billion people become web riders in the next 3 to 5 years. It is meant to help us anticipate the new, strange forces driving the next global economy. I found the new terminology puzzling, let alone the coming virtual world!
A Jump Point is an environmental change so startling that we must regroup and rethink the future. Jump Points have occurred when technology, economics and culture converged to produce transformational change. The Internet Jump Point will occur when half the human race gets on the web and "all the world's producers and consumers are unified in a single, integrated global system." It will be an explosive combination that few companies will survive.
"The freeway to the future is littered with the business cards of the blindsided." (Introduction)
"Today the network is the economy." (1)
"The true history of technology is 10 percent invention, 90 percent adoption." (5)
A Jump Point is a nonlinear growth surge in the adoption of a technology, a fundamental shift in the way society and the world works. (5)
New technology takes a while to catch on. The Newcomen steam engine was invented in 1712 as a water pump. It took until the end of the century for the development of steam-powered machinery. (7)
It is not the invention of technology, but its infusion, that causes the Jump.
Up until now a global economy meant a Western economy. The four billion who live on less than $5 a day are poor because they lack access to capital to convert their assets into wealth. This will change. People at the bottom do have assets and the potential to create more wealth. (15, 16)
The new networked world offers unbounded opportunity for new ideas, new products, new markets, and new wealth. (21) Optimists see positive synergy. The dark side includes thieves, scam artists, combatants and terrorists, not to mention market volatility. (22)
"…people now have the power to do more than just receive information; they can choose whether or not to evaluate, reshape, add value, and pass the information along to others in the network. This power shift from receiver to connector is a driving force of the next economy." (30-1)
"The most effective form of communication is word of mouth--when one person shares information directly with another." (40) Rumor-mongering is particularly potent, the sociological equivalent of a virus. Peer-to-peer referral will be a big part of how shopping will be done in the future. A marketing message needs to be viral, a huge challenge. "…the networked economy is …about people and organizations connecting directly with each other and making new things happen." (45) "Information overload makes memorable, enduring communications…exceedingly rare." (47)
Affinity groups are a web surprise. In 2007, MySpace had 200 million accounts and Facebook was getting 28 million visitors per month. (53) Affinity groups will become the dominant social force in markets.
"We use our new tools to make our next tools." (65)
There will be an escalating battle for our attention. It will be harder for businesses to connect with moving targets.
The Jump Point occurs when an emerging culture becomes the dominant culture. The network is rapidly approaching this crossover. (70)
"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention." (71, quoting Herbert Simon)
There are enough consumers of video games to fill auditoriums and even stadiums to hear orchestral renditions of game soundtracks. Video Games Live! is one such event that calls itself an immersive event, because the combination of live music, video, game playing, and pyrotechnics consumes all your senses and your total attention. [If that doesn't sound like the "feelies" in Aldous Huxleys' Brave New World, I don't know what would! dlm] Today's audiences are accustomed to having their attention overwhelmed with a multiplicity of concurrent stimuli. Consumers are building a high tolerance for information overload.
"Our daily lives have become centered on what scientists call information transfer…." (73) [Increasing information transfer correlates with decreasing analysis, reasoning, questioning, or pondering, i.e. wisdom. dlm] Time is fixed and attention is a zero-sum game. Attention is so scarce that extreme measures are required to capture a bit of it. Your primary customers may not be paying attention to you. We cope with information overload by skimming and skipping and by giving only partial attention to anything. (76) Information overload results in ever shorter attention spans. Media adjusts to exploit this dynamic, feeding the cycle. (78)
Marketers will increasingly do "behavioral targeting," target their ads to populations who have expressed behaviors that indicate an interest. How will your company compete in the intense battle for attention?
North American accounts for only 20% of Internet users. (98)
Our relationship with time will get more complicated. Everything is happening in an expanding now. Any situation perceived as too slow by the consumer will be punished. "Waiting is so yesterday." (100)
"The age of the networked economy, of blurred time zones, puts enormous pressure on the individual. … It becomes hard to shut off the day, recuperate, and relax when the day itself does not shut off." (101)
"Amplitude is a wide-ranging state of being that combines the elements of abundance, nonlinearity, mobility, and extensibility. People continually push the limits, believing anything is possible. Networking eliminates scarcity, creating the Abundant Economy. The customer believes that everything is always available and that all things are possible. Creativity is exploding. YouTube and MySpace can happen!
Nonlinear thinkers tend to discover rather than search, stumble on new ideas, become less predictable, more elusive, and accepting of ambiguity. People are more mobile yet better connected but harder to reach and engage.
"Today's online game and virtual worlds are more than just child's play; they are teaching us new ways to behave, to solve problems, to create opportunities, and soon enough, to execute commerce." (116)
For this generation technology should liberate and democratize information. Information should be free. Copyrights everywhere are falling. Questions about 'fair use,' 'originality' and 'ownership' of creative content are defining issues. "The ability to transform, reshape, and recreate information is a fundament of the Information age." (123) Consumers aren't actively opposing any system of rules; they simply ignore them. The open source movement is a cultural force. Tensions will grow between liberty and the rights of authors and artists.
The Internet empowers conversations between cultures which means convergence and compromise and a more interesting world, a hybridized and complex culture. The network moves culture faster.
"Trust is the new money."
"Nothing influences a person more than a recommendation from a trusted friend." (139, quoting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg)
"Trust is the irreducible bedrock of business today, and even small breaches can have major consequences. … every breach is a crisis." (141)
Companies must build an image of integrity. Only put on the internet what you want to be replicated, repeated and spread over the globe. Smart companies will pursue the goal of being the most trusted.
"Without mediators, who will enforce the rule of law, guarantee performance, and punish cheats? The answer is not so simple." But one answer is, you will be found out. Customers' horror stories survive permanently and are amplified on the web.
"We are entering a vulnerable stage of history, a time when old institutions, organizations, and standing rules will be challenged and could even be undone by the properties of the network. … In short, we may not know whom or what to trust." (142) "Are you the trust leader in your industry?" (157)
"The edge dissolves the center." (163, Stowe Boyd)
The Bubble Generation, coming of age after the dot.com bubble, has particular characteristics. Age 13-25, children of the web. Their culture, mores, tastes, and wants are defined by internet technology. They are pragmatic, worldly, materialistic, and optimistic, the first truly global generation [in a superficial sort of way, I would think. dlm], very accepting of alternative lifestyles, quick, clever, and often "terrifyingly shallow." They experience a great deal of individual control, see influence in the hands of the little guy, the individual as powerful as the institution, and communities of individuals even more powerful. They rarely use the other media, or email--it is too slow. For buying choices they rely on 'alpha consumers,' celebrities and people they know. Internet is their primary entertainment. They don't hear you, know you, trust you, engage with you, or enlist unless you are part of their trusted circle.
"The six cultural forces driving the Bubble Generation are Immediacy, Angst, Affiliation, Authenticity, Individualism, and Prepotency." (170) Instant is normal. Everything must be sped up. There is a collective angst; they live at threat level orange. Short-horizon thinking, live today mentality. They long to belong and are wary outside their social cocoon. They have a hard time disconnecting from the grid. They expect transparency and abhor artifice. Real people and real life stories move them. They respond best to authentic endorsements from fellow consumers. Everyone is special and should have customized products and services designed especially for them. Everything is available, negotiable, adjustable, and customizable. Autonomy, choice, and freedom characterize them. Attempts to fulfill unrealistic expectations can be a vicious, unsatisfying cycle. The bounty results in the paralysis of choice overload.
"There is a real danger that the 40-year-old BubbleGen'er of 2025 will be burned out on too many videos, too much porn, too many online games, too much conversation…and ultimately, just too many … experiences." (183)
"A customer is the shortest line between two other customers. When your customers have a vested interest in your product or message, the momentum is unstoppable." (192) "Social communities are the new marketplaces."
Free is always good for the customer. Make basic services free and charge for premium service or add-ons. Reward their attention. Make it worth their while to listen to you. Break the time barrier: be always 'on.' Allow users to add content. Compete on trust. Become contagious.
What will it be like? It may not seem a lot different; it will slip up on us and we will suddenly recognize that everything has changed. Humans have an enormous capacity to adapt. Sudden bursts of creativity, innovation and invention will seem to sweep the planet as will fads, fears, and facts, both exhilarating and frightening.
"Smart companies will need to remain vigilant on almost every corner of the planet, searching for the first clues--a blog entry, a patent application, a comment on a Web site--of something huge still running beneath the radar." (218)
Some key questions:
n "Will the global Web make the world more homogeneous, or will it empower people to become more diverse?" Will it be a vast Wal-Mart or a million cyberbazaars?
n Will it be a place of law-abiding businesspeople or an endless landscape of e-mail scammers?
n Will it be characterized by trust or mistrust?
n Will it be characterized by wise maturity or the younger, less educated, immature, volatile youth culture? How patient will the bottom millions be when they can see prosperity on their cell phones?
Economic and social power will shift to new institutions, organizations, and individuals and huge wealth will aggregate around these entities. Demand will appear everywhere at once and meeting the demand will be its own crisis.
"Let's hope we--and the billions about to join us--have the courage and strength of character to embrace this extraordinary opportunity." (135)
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