There’s a guy in a bedroom in London tweeting to his followers about a crap experience with a new digital service. They’re listening too. Lapping it up because they think it’s giving them some inside track. Some of them will even pass the disgust on to their followers. They might just re-tweet creating a virtual cycle of pass-it-on with limitless viral potential. Some might even just plagiarize the advice and pretend it happened to them instead – an interesting case of wanting to be the top informant. It’s binary Chinese whispers, but in this case the message doesn’t change just the magnitude of it. Meanwhile the digital service is shitting bricks of binary trying to put the untameable fire out – “it’s out of control, what can we do?” – the answer is of course nothing at all. If you tackle the guy at the source you risk in framing his rage by second guessing the motive and getting it wrong again. Besides, he’s getting his moment in the limelight as the hero who exposed the scandal (him & the 32 other people who nicked the warning and claimed the victory) so why would he be interested in a bung to shut him up. We have an unwritten rule in our land of digital architects & experience manufacturing, you can only do one thing – “don’t feed the troll”. Act ignorant, pretend it’s not there & eventually it should go away.
It’s not a new phenomenon, I’ve been parroting on to colleagues & peers about this for almost 10 years under various labels. In fact the whole concept is rather old hat – you have a crap experience & human nature tells us to warn our friends to stop the same thing happening to them.
On the flip side if you have a great time you’ll be an advocate & pass the good times on. So we have to embrace the new world order as much as fear it because the positive effect can be too huge to risk missing out on.
We’ve come to label the uncontrollable desire to tell everyone everything “The Prosumer Effect“.
Prosumer is a portmanteau formed by combing either the word professional or producer with the word consumer. The term has taken on multiple conflicting meanings: the business sector sees the prosumer (professional–consumer) as a market segment, whereas economists see the prosumer (producer–consumer) as having greater independence from the mainstream economy.
Influencing a company with the power of communication
My view of the Prosumer is as one who can influence what a company does be it product development or marketing in ways which directly benefit them. For example, say you’re an advertising agency and a group of people who were subjected to a particular campaign took issue with it & used social communication tools to voice their concern. These customers are important enough that losing them would seriously hurt your bottom line. Based on their request you direct a portion of your next campaign budget to solve their specific issue. While the customers didn’t directly make the changes they did influence the company with their feedback. This arrangement has positive effects for both parties:
For the customer:
- Immediate access to a more tailored counter-campaign
- The new campaign meets their specific requirements.
For the company:
- Strengthened relationship with the customer.
- Demonstrates a willingness to keep their customers satisfied.
- The company now has a new feature/product/service they can market to other customers.
It’s a win-win scenario.
Another definition of Prosumer is “Progressive Consumer” which emerged during the recession in 2008 / 2009 and identifies a modern consumer who has changed their approach to the traditional methods and habits of purchasing products. A Prosumer is researching a products value, performance, and price through social networks (twitter, tumblr, facebook) and consumer product reviews (such as Amazon.co.uk) and prices comparison shopping engines such as Kelkoo before making a final decision or purchase. Within these web sites a Prosumer researches all aspects of a products performance, price and social acceptance in relative comparison to similar products within the same category.
It’s no coincidence that Aleksandr Orlov of Compare the Meerkat was an advertising hit in 2009, he was the poster boy (well, animal) for the prosumer crowd, all scrabbling over the best deals to help dented pockets.
The Prosumer is searching for the highest quality product that best meets their personal needs for the maximum amount of money they are willing to spend. Based on that search criteria, the Prosumer is also willing to venture into new shopping distribution channels in order to purchase that product.
I simply adore this video entitled Prometeus: the future of media. It really crystallizes some of the new order in stunning over-exaggerated style:
“Man is God. He is everywhere, he is anybody, he knows everything.”
“A new figure emerges: the prosumer, a producer and a consumer of information. Anyone can be a prosumer.”
“Experience is the new reality.”
It’s melodrama of course, but those 3 statements from the video alone carry weight & reality. We are everywhere now, we do communicate globally in real time & we are hyper-connected. I’m writing this post in bed using a app on my iPad. I might go & shop & review when I’m done. If something irritates me I can open Tweetdeck and let my 200ish followers know it sucked. Hell, if it REALLY sucked I might send the same status update to my Facebook profile & let my 170 ‘real friends’ know so they can tell their friends & so on. We call it a ‘status bomb’ in this game. I’m a prosumer. I’m also an influencer. I carry weight in my own vapor sphere & that means I can’t be ignored. Scary, huh?