The idea of authentic co-creation is quite obviously the most important shift that is happening in marketing and strategy today. It is a move away from centralised control of communications and branding to a more decentralised, user-oriented approach.
At the iCommons Innovation Series last week in Jo’burg, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales stated that any business that is dependent on people not copying its products or services is doomed, whereas those that embrace the culture of sharing and build in systems to facilitate and benefit from sharing will thrive. This is most obvious in the music industry, where even Madonna has left her old record label, which was dependent on DRM and record sales, and moved to a label that prioritises alternative revenue streams such as her brand, her live performances and merchandising.
My understanding of the Attention Economy is that there is enormous value in the goodwill of a community, and power comes as your ideas, products and services circulate through that community. In this new economy, participation is key, since it is the highest form of attention that a person can give. It must be pointed out, though, that simply creating a platform for participation (such as a corporate wiki or a video channel) is not enough to motivate people to get involved on an ongoing basis. You need to build in ways of helping them to connect with people that have shared interests.
How do you think Wikipedia really works to maintain the level of quality participation it has? The answer is that behind each article there are little communities of people who are connecting with each other through a shared interest in the subject matter they are compiling — each contribution, discussion and edit is a form of social currency that can escalate their status in the community. People blog for much the same reason. So perhaps the human need for recognition and connection is really the driver of the new web economy.
My advice is to do whatever you can to help reduce people’s sense of separation from each other and your brand. As a participant in one of last week’s workshops pointed out: a relationship is an ongoing conversation. So I leave you with a question to consider: How will you start facilitating ongoing conversations through your company, with your company, and through your products, services, portals and communications?