Snapchat has just been valued at $12bn. PRISM and other forms of state surveillance of our social communications are driving a retreat to privacy.
The omnipresence of brands in our social streams is pushing some folk to do the equivalent of hitting the mute button when the ads are on TV – they are looking for ways NOT to be interrupted - not to be targeted or otherwise 'engaged' by ham-fisted, dads-dancing-at-weddings brands.
This preference for the private, for the small social groups of communication – six-person social networks, sms-based one-to-few interactions, all of these is piling on the agony for mass communication.
How does an advertiser slap banner ads into our private conversations – by their very nature we want to switch off anything that might reveal our preferences (key word matching of ad to content of conversation, in the style of G-mail or twitter ads, for example, even this will be unwanted by those headed for the small-private-network future).
It’s a fear-led place. It’s not something I want to see. But (and I say this is an As-Well rather than Instead Of scenario, it may be the dawning of a cultural lock-down. Sharing for some folk is less caring, more scaring.
Facebook active use is actually down at the end of this year (by 0.5% over all granted, though much more pronounced among younger segments) The way people are using it is changing too – much more voyeurism, much less sharing of their own input (images, video etc).
And the problem for mass comms? How to get your message into those private conversations when they don’t want you to know anything about them.
Relationship marketing remains the key. Create an easy and ‘right’ experience and the result isn’t a banner ad – it’s a heart won and a mind made up. We may want to switch off anything that would give an advertiser a clue when we go micro-social, but try as we might we won’t switch our beliefs off when we make our private connections.
You’ll recommend based on your experience just as heartily in private (perhaps more so) than you would have done in public.
This of course means the building of advocacy is even more important. It’s pretty much all that can work in this emerging micro-social world.
The challenge facing digital marketers now then is, how can you apply the rules of advocacy creation to any marketing activities beyond that delivered by their one-to-one- social media activities. And if you can't, where should you focus your spend instead?
This charge to privacy is, in my view, a road bump on the journey to Open (as in The 10 Principles of Open Business) which I think we will come to look back on as the time when a lot of people came to the realisation that they didn't NEED control from the centre.
It's an important learning, but something of a cul-de-sac in my view unless the outputs for all improve (and that is a road that always leads us back to collaboration, an Open road).
But for all that - it is happening - and marketeers must adapt to cope.