Consumer Internet

The user is in control

By December 11, 2007 5 Comments

One of the interesting things about social media is that consumers are party to key strategy decisions.  It used to be that senior management made their decisions and they played out over time as the market gave it’s verdict on the changes to the product, service or brand.  I remember first thinking this back during the AACS encryption row when Digg responded to it’s readers and changed strategy to allow articles showing how to break the DVD code, even though that meant they risked getting sued.  I think I even wrote about it at the time, although I can’t find the link now.

Today at LeWeb Tariq Krim of Netvibes took the point a step further and said (words to the effect of):

Facebook’s Beacon shows that social sites need to be democracies – they can’t do things that aren’t acceptable to their user base.  So they will need to find ways of testing things – analogous to primaries or elections.

This is true, although at the same time companies shouldn’t be afraid of taking bold decisions that may be unpopular in the short term.  People hate change and sometimes need a kick in the butt to accept something that is actually good for them.

In a similar point Hans Peter Brondmo of Plum said we need to get to a point where users own their data, control who can access it, can remove it at will, and have audit tools available to check compliance.  To play the democracy analogy out here – if strategy is like the laws of a nation here we are talking about the digital equivalent of your basic human rights – e.g. to control who comes into your house and ultimately to leave the country if you want to.
This is important because one of the big fears many people have about social sites is that stuff they put on their profiles might embarrass them later.  Take that away and you will remove a big blockage on usage.