Are You Keeping up with the Joneses Online?


You have all kinds of neighbors.

    From helpful, to noisy (if you live in a flat you know what that means), nosy ones and ones you get along with perfectly. In fact, you could say the same for the office, and social networks. Everywhere there are people, you have people dynamics.

    And now, there are also neighbors like the Jones family.

    They are just there for one reason: to sell things. Things they make you feel you need, because your neighbors have them. Although the movie is quite subtle, it drives home one thing: that there is a kind of person that will do anything, just to sell products and accelerate their careers.

    The catchphrase "keeping up with the Joneses" was coined in 1913 by cartoonist Arthur R. Momand for the title of a series in the New York World. It means "trying to match the lifestyle of one's more affluent neighbors or acquaintances."

    Although the director was quite subtle in his approach, the movie is a fantastic reminder that using or leveraging emotions for duplicitous ends takes us into dark territory.

    The narrative exposes the all too human desire to be powerful — i.e., influential (accepted, liked, loved), and respected — and the frailty of  getting there through the instant gratification of unsavory shortcuts.

    Ending aside, which I won't spoil (movies want to tie all things neatly, life is never quite that way) I would show it to any organization and individual looking to join online networks and "be social" to help them understand the difference between mass media and new media.

    To help them see that parroting the guru of the day may not be such a hot idea, especially when you work very hard to then become the very thing you found distasteful or objectionable when you got started.

    It's quite easy to get sidetracked and, to put it in Machiavellian terms, to confuse other people as means to an end.

    You can indeed buy yourself a bunch of followers, get money for nothin' and friends for free and think that is a true measure of influence. It's all too natural to want to look good — my company has thousands of followers, therefore you should buy my product/service.

    Without making the actual connections and being truly useful as in growing organically, you are risking indifference at best, customer emotional bankruptcy at worst.

    Instead, I would look to embrace your community and build or attract one if you don't have one, by finding passion levers, elevating its members, and helping them tell their stories. That's, for example, what we did here with Twittertales almost a year ago [which begs the question to Twitter — why not embrace the project? Not invented here syndrome?]

    Newer companies have the advantage of not too much baggage compared to older ones. Why not bake community right into all processes, into the product? Don't be just like Turbotax though. Find a way to bake the community into your processes, your communications, your products.

    People buy into your culture, way of doing things, the way what you do and how you do it makes them feel. That's what people buy, unless your product is so different — like that of the company that can prove all examples wrong, Apple. In that case, the marketing is baked right into the product — and so is the relationship.

    The beauty of much of what is happening online is that it's not been invented yet. You can make it work however it does with your community of customers. Which reminded me that I don't quite show enough possibilities through how I do the connecting thing.

    On Twitter, I'm using the #twconnect hashtag. If you want to see examples of listening and embracing the community through individuals, you can do that easily. Please steal this idea, that's why I put it out there. Help people connect with resources and ideas using the hashtag. I'll be tracking it to learn more about the people you connect and help wherever I can.

To end with Machiavelli: It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles

    Why are you trying to keep up with the Jones online? What makes you think you would not be able to build or attract a community? How are you going about getting attention?

[piazza Navona, Roma by mafalda]

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0 responses to “Are You Keeping up with the Joneses Online?”

  1. Love this bit: “…I would look to embrace your community and build or attract one if you don’t have one, by finding passion levers, elevating its members, and helping them tell their stories.”
    And by the continual finding, elevating, and helping – connecting becomes natural.
    Thanks for modeling this so fantastically in your own work:-)

  2. Hilarious! I just wrote a blog post about this film today, but different context: …but with a much smaller slice of the story and in discussing Social vs Traditional CRM.
    I think it’s an important question to ask – why. Often a question that can’t be answered, but always necessary to ask. Is it just the feeling of community that is attracting so many to connect online, or is there something else?
    Great post, Valeria.

  3. Comment on something I very deeply believe in – Take 13. (click)
    The concept of connecting people around shared passions, elevating them to their rightful places as global citizens, and showing them how their stories are incredible has come to feel like it will be my life’s work.
    In the last ten months, I’ve seen this concept go from really neat idea to core, driving belief first hand. It’s an all consuming desire to show others how they matter. These are people going about their daily lives when some random, near stranger comes to them and tells them the whole world wants – needs – to hear their stories. With this single, simple act, we empower people. I love this.
    Looking back, I think part of the spark equation for me was when you asked me for an interview, Valeria. That feeling you get when someone you respect asks your opinion on something was so amazing, I had to share it with others.
    Ten months later, I’ve got friends all over the world. I know two guys in Australia with the same rally car I’m trying to build. I’m going to paint mine yellow to match theirs. I’m going on a vacation to Germany in September and my wife and I have been invited to a Mitsubishi car meet by the local club chapter. There might even be a community leader from the UK catching a flight to Germany for the sole purpose of meeting us for lunch.
    Through the simple act of bringing people together around those shared passions, building them up, and sharing their stories, we’re finding that we have a renewed sense of optimism. We can make the wold a better place for our brothers and sisters. We are unstoppable.
    My story is of no consequence, but if it must be shared, jot down that I’m in the business of connecting and empowering people.

  4. @Annie – serendipity works. And that was a juicy slice you picked, thank you for the link. Indeed, it was one of the few very clear distinctions between traditional and social. Well done!
    @Brian – it was a very good interview. And you provided great input that was the basis of other posts, too. Did I ever tell you I love cars? Probably not in the same way you so down to the inner workings. I love a cool ride. What you describe I experienced with the Fast Company network we built in the early days. That’s why it’s been so disheartening to see the magazine neglect it and then reject it.

  5. @Valeria – I know you’re into cars. I’ve seen you mention it from time to time. We all have passions of varying degrees.
    Plus, you’re Italian, so I suspect it’s in your blood. Prancing horses, raging bulls, and Milano Biscione – are there emblems elsewhere reflecting more brand awareness and passion? I think not. A choice complement.

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