The Sweet Symmetry in Online Consumerism


Ah, SearchEngineStrategies San Jose- so this is where Summer has been keeping the sun and warm weather?

I knew yesterday’s keynote would be extremely well covered in search industry media, so my boss (Marty) suggested that I spend the evening to  ponder  Clay Shirky’s keynote, “Here Comes Everybody,” prior to my blogging.  He charged me to offer my take on Clay’s social and economic impact theories, from the perspective of a  relatively new marketing professional, entering our industry as an AIMCLEAR social media team member.

Social Media has undoubtedly given its users the ease of “organization without organizations.” Shirkey emphasized that never before in history have groups had the ability to be as organized and coordinated as we are today. Finally group conversation and interaction is possible.

There is sweet symmetry in online consumerism- with an online consumer creates the power of an online producer. However, and thankfully, most consumers don’t give a damn about producing, but many do and there is affordable technology for them to do so.


Shirkey identified the three most important factors which drive us to be intrinsically motivated- the need to feel autonomous, competent and connected. These three motivations will get people to do things they usually wont and here’s the good news- if you pay them, it KILLS the motivation. So don’t pay people to get them to do something- just make them feel competent about it and that they’re doing it for the team. Try it on your kids- not your employees.

Mass Amaturization

Along with the ease of production comes laymen producers who are, well, amateurs. Shirkey explained though that they are not simply “sloppy pros” or want to be “little versions” of the big shots, they’re just producing content for the hell of it, and why not? The concept and availability of mass amateurization has brought these intrinsic motivations to the forefront- we can see the banal things people write about for themselves, their friends and their niche community.

Yes- I Am A Narcissist But At Least  My Mom Cares

This point reminds me my friends’ response to Twitter- “How narcissistic!” they said, “People don’t care if you had an awesome sandwich from the Amazing Grace Cafe?” Well, sure, not everybody cares, but my friends do because they want to stay connected and feel a part of my life and the cafe cares because they just got a little shout-out on a very public platform. Shirkey made the point that we are not used to seeing things in the public that aren’t meant for the public. And because the cost of participation is so low, in both a monetary and time sense, the logic “why publish?” morphs into “why NOT publish?”.

Hindsight is 20/20

Clearly hindsight in 20/20 once we realize the consequences of our actions we can then better asses what we should have done. Similairly, Shirkey points out that “only things that are really important are only important in retrospect.” So true. Well, except for the Web, we all knew that’d be huge. Duh. Moral of the story– don’t be afraid to try the new platforms, get your hands dirty, if it doesn’t work out then- whatever man, but if it does you’ll reep the rewards.

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