The Connection Economy: Memail, dodgy movies, and me

My ‘Your Discover Weekly’ by Spotify

Shut up now, shut up, It’s just me. – Nigel, Rio(2011)

Last year I got a memail from Spotify about my Top Songs of 2016. This year it was just there when I went to bop to my tunes. For me, being given my own playlist is magic.

I feel like a valued customer. Sometimes I will share my excitement on Twitter and have a lovely chat with other Spotify customers and by word of mouth, we are promoting Spotify. Double win: satisfied customers and free advertising.

According to Seth Godin, the connection economy runs on four points:

  • Coordination – Spotify do this by arranging my data aka my most popular songs into something meaningful, a playlist.
  • Trust – I trust Spotify because they bothered to do the above, so when they pick out songs that I don’t know and recommend them to me in Your Discover Weekly, I am likely to listen.
  • Permission – If they send me email, I am likely to open that first, since I don’t mind hearing what they have to say. They have my permission to contact me and recommend things to me.
  • The exchange of ideas – When Spotify recommends songs similar to songs on my playlist, using a facility I can switch on or off, again, I am likely to listen to them because they are generating ideas based on data – like those Spotify posters that tell me which songs have been most listened to in London. They are intriguing me and suggesting things all at once. Very cool.

By doing this Spotify hit the other points of the connection economy – it feels that they are generous and remarkable. They have just given me something for no other reason than to make me feel good. And their stats are worthy of remarking upon, especially when they are put on those huge posters at tube stops and traffic lights like the one below. They are a talking point and they create a connection and a bit of community. I feel like I am part of the Spotify gang.

If we compare this to say Amazon who recommends things based on what other people did, it is a lot less about me. Occasionally, Amazon sends me vouchers for Kindle books I have no desire to read and which are not based on my past purchases, there’s a bit of an opposite thing going on.

There’s no coordination, no exchange of ideas, no trust in their opinion, and they are spamming my inbox and my Kindle reader on my phone – I have tried many times to switch off this facility. It is more of a hard sell, which is a shame.

The rules of connection in action

The pic below is a snapshot of a video sent to me by DirectLine when my house insurance was up for renewal, which is a bit mad as I thought it was car insurance. That said, I was very excited at the personalisation (which has always been a pet topic of mine in human-computer interaction and worth a blog of its own), but a couple of seconds in it was a generic thing, not really aimed at me. How hard would it have been to film and combine snippets to make it all about me and my policy? Not that hard, given that my policy is rather generic anyway. As it was it just came across as really lazy, with some weird young bloke #mansplaining how to renew my house insurance. I was half expecting him to tell me how to reverse park or change a fuse or something equally patronising. Alas, with a bit more effort at coordinating I might have took them more seriously.

I have Virgin Media (which is not great) and my details must be on one of their databases but no one has ever thought to cross reference and coordinate my information with the mailshots they send out every single week offering new customers a great deal to swap over. It is a bit rubbish as an existing customer who tolerates their bad service (their phonelines are so bad when you ring up) to see that Virgin is just bothered about getting in new people, it doesn’t really care about me, so as it is, it is hard to trust them.

I was a Sky customer before I moved house but decided to switch to Virgin just for a change, and it was only then that Sky offered us a fabulous deal. But, it was too late, I know many people do threaten to leave to get a better deal, but for me I find it a terrible way of conducting business. I don’t want to get what I want by threatening people. I want to get what I want i.e., the service for which I have paid, by giving people money.

Today, Sky sent me an email asking me to do a questionnaire. What? I’ve not been their customer for four years. Again, no one bothered to coordinate their data, so result: they are spamming my email. They didn’t get my permission. They didn’t get my questionnaire results. It was the uncooperative version of the prisonner’s dilemma.

Get inspired

And, yet these are all big companies who have the resources to offer great service if they were to get inspired and creative. Imagine what they could do? It really doesn’t take much to make someone feel special and to create a connection.

Currently, we are overwhelmed everyday by information we haven’t requested, and bad customer service, and yet connection economy advisors say things like monitor social media. This generally means getting people to apologise online.

The last few weeks, I vented on Twitter about Argos flogging Num-Noms 2 and 3 as Num-Noms 4; and, VisionExpress, who kept fobbing me off and not giving me the contact lenses for which I had paid. Both times I was asked to DM. Both times I didn’t, because the social media people have no power to fix the problem, they just make an irate customer repeat themselves offline.

Godin talks about marketing round the edges, not the masses, but I think he is wrong, not every marketers has the opportunity to market something unique, and mind-blowing but a lot of marketers could give people exactly what they want in big companies like Virgin, Amazon, etc., using these same ideas. As currently, and as I said in Game theory in social media marketing, the marketer-customer is often described as a two-way mutually dependent conflict, and marketers describe everything combatively. Why though? Why try and get one over on the customer? Or the business? Why not just generate a bit of love – it is surprisingly easy, just look at how thrilled I am to get another playlist of my own.

What drives all humans is the need to matter and the desire to be surprised. We see this in real life, #irl, and on social media, and with the technology that businesses have, it has never been more easy to satisfy customers needs, likes, loves, all at the click of a button and create a connection economy, and yet we are so far away. Hopefully, as technology continues to split markets and diversify how we do things, big companies will have to try harder to give us all some love and make us feel important. I can’t wait. In the meantime if someone could phone up Virgin for me, I would love you forever.

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