Social networks have fundamentally altered the way companies should approach technological functionality and product proposition.
Traditionally, product managers and content executives have approached this process from an, “If you build it, they will come,” mindset. They fancied themselves the gatekeepers, the arbiters of culture and taste. And for a long time, they were.
But now, the reign of the, “If you build it, they will come,” attitude is dead.
No longer are product managers and company creatives the sole determinants of future trends and industrial winners. Now, their primary job is to listen to customers and identify what it is they’re clamoring for — what they’re demanding. The power now lies with the customers.
What’s changed is the rise of social networks; the innate replicability of technology offerings; the increased influence of peer-to-peer relationships; and, perhaps most importantly, the general warping of the way knowledge is transferred and shared within society.
No longer can companies easily rely on reaching their audiences through one channel, such as an ad on NBC or an editorial in The New York Times. The general user-base for technological products consists of roughly 2.5 billion people bifurcated into a number of polarized cultural segments, each of which wields power and influence.
On the one hand, this is empowering, so long as companies properly identify which market segment might be most realistically interested in their product. In this way, managers and executives can target that bifurcated segment with increased specificity.
But the issue presents itself in that users, today, are fickle, emboldened by an ever-widening array of options, and empowered by an ever-increasing amount of influence. As such, they tend to vacillate between brands quickly and without loyalty.
Indeed, brand loyalty has become harder and harder for companies to cultivate because users will simply side with whomever offers the best products at the best deal.
This is how our world has evolved. Now, for technology companies, the chief concern has become: how do we adapt? What should product managers and creative executives focus on so far as capturing and maintaining market share? What rules the day in this new world?
The answer is: “Company Love.”
Users determine now which companies succeed and which fade into obsolescence.
Executives no longer control their destinies. They are now — more so than at any time in history — beholden to users, who have an increased ability to hold them accountable by way of their influence online and their ability to act cohesively through social networks. Their interest creates a self-fulfilling feedback loop, wherein nodes inside each individualized long tail social environment say, “Hey, did you check out this app? This is amazing.” From there, growth expounds.
The repercussions of this evolution cannot be understated. For investors, it means the primary focus when considering which companies to invest in needs to be tracking early adopters and quantifying what amount of “company love” companies might be able to cultivate. Or, in other words, the primary focus needs to be listening to consumers.
The egocentrism that originally drove both content creation and investment has, by necessity, been replaced by something starkly different: supreme attentiveness.
For companies, cultivating Company Love means reorienting your entire operating philosophy.
The focus of both branding and content creation now needs to center on the two sub-elements comprising Company Love: the user experience (which accounts for 99% of a company’s success), and the perception of credit and trust.
Now, when companies perform A/B testing on a new product or piece of messaging, that’s what they need to be testing for and tracking. Companies need to be analyzing things like: are users engaging with this product in a way where they feel supported by the brand and in a way that aligns with the expectations and mood of their social environment?
It’s a shift that not all companies have been able to embrace, likely because it’s more than a tactical shift; it’s a change in the way society operates. And as is true of investors, adapting to that shift for companies entails removing ego from the creation process and replacing it with attentiveness and empathy.
The same holds true for companies built on the blockchain.
The questions here are: do companies built on the blockchain need to be so concerned with this societal shift, or does the innovation of their foundational technology allow them a certain operational impunity?
The answer is, yes, they do need to be concerned, and no, the innovation doesn’t exempt them. No matter how we replace the underlying digital fabric of our transactional, authoritative universe, user experience is — and will remain — king. Company Love will remain crucial regardless of the medium. If the user experience of engaging with products informed by blockchain technology proves onerous, both those products and the blockchain as a whole will fail.
The only thing the empowered, connected, and vocal users of the world today care about is, “Does it work?” and, “Does it look good?”. Technology is just a background jumble of functionality that is someone else’s problem to think about. Companies built on the blockchain have to adapt to this reality that nobody cares about the technicality of — along with the new challenge of reaching customers in their respective cultural siloes — just like every other industry.
Programmers can wax poetic about how intricate, structurally secure, and conceptually beautiful the systems we build are, but ultimately, the only thing that matters is whether users want to associate themselves with our products. Whether they want to love them and, in turn, us.