Focusing Too Much on the Object


Anything you buy, you must maintain. Each tool you use requires time to learn how to use, to install, to upgrade, or to fix. A purchase is just the beginning. You can expect to devote as much energy/money/time in maintaining a technology as you did in acquiring it.

This is one of the techno life skills Kevin Kelly listed in a post at the end of April 2011. It jumped at me because it is true not just of technology — it's one of those concepts you can apply more broadly. Any object you own ends up owning you when all you focus on is owning it.

A simple example in social are brand-led communities. Aside from the fact that it is hard to build and grow a community, is it yours in the first place? Is the premise of this being a property of the brand useful to its existence and experience?

Building a community is a responsibility. Unlike building a new product, you will have a harder time throwing it (and the mold it came from) away once you're done with it — for lack of resources, or otherwise when it's not profitable.

Focus on purpose, instead

When you're solving for usefulness, you are asking an entirely different question on the onset. In many cases, you're asking the why question and you're asking it for the customers, AND the business.

You go build a community complete with welcome mat and you make a certain number of promises. Yes, you do. I've seen the PowerPoints. Plus, I have 3 problems with the "be human" to connect advice.

Often a community, or an idea bucket, lacks clarity in what it's aiming at and ends up becoming an expensive crowdsourcing initiative. When a stronger grasp and analysis of customer data and business model would more than suffice to provide an experience worth sharing because it comes to customers — tablet, smartphone, or laptop — to help them get what they want, make their lives better.

Which changes the question, or at least provides a number of options/answers that could start with organizing differently and integrating what is already there.

Operate from the best possible business model, and you operate from strength.

Content is an object until…

It comes to life as digital products.

Thanks to the ubiquity of broadband access, the familiarity with
technology, and the popularity of tablets, content consumption has gone
way up. A zillion people have said this already. I've said this, too. Along with what content gets retweeted over time, and so on.

This new-er content habit is making it viable for media companies to start
packaging content for on demand viewing, especially in response to new
entrants offering purchase of original content for streaming#, and for news organizations to start experimenting with new models that are not so dependent on advertising revenue#.

True utility of content is achieved when what is on offer is service. When content becomes about making better choices, learning something useful to plan my work or life simply, getting where I need to go more easily, and helping me be smarter and have an all around better experience.

This is hard to do.

We know more about marketing and we have more data than ever before, yet we are taking the first baby steps in creating thoughtful (or through-through) experiences across devices and across online/physical boundaries. The back end on the enterprise side will need addressing — both on the business and the technology sides.

We get distracted by the promise of mobile instead of focusing on translating our promises to a location- and situation-based frame of reference.

For example, customers expect your app to know where they are when their location-based services are on; they expect the system to know where they left off when they come back to it, or at a minimum to remember previous interactions and transactions, etc.

Making technology and tools that work well to help people do what they want to do in connection with what is on offer — e.g., if you're a bank, you want to help them with smarter budgeting decisions, etc. — moves content from object to asset on both sides of the interaction.

Focus on keeping those promises, and you make your business more resilient.


[image via Fubiz]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.