Today is my second day back in the lab after three weeks of back-to-back online marketing and strategy workshops, lectures and conferences. The recurrent theme in all of them was the idea of authentic co-creation. Quite obviously the most important shift that is happening in marketing and strategy is a move away from centralized control of communications to a more decentralized user-oriented approach.

At the iCommons Innovation Series last week in Joburg, Jimmy Wales stated that any business that was dependent on people not copying its products or services was doomed, whereas those that embrace the culture of sharing, and that build in systems to facilitate and benefit from sharing would 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 prioritizes alternative revenue streams such as her brand, her live performance revenues, and merchandising.

In the Attention Economy, having the goodwill of a community can make you rich, 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 Wiki or a video-channel) is not enough to get people involved. You need to help them connect with people that have shared interests.

How do you think Wikipedia maintains 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?
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AuthorDave Duarte