Everyone had a camera by miss_rogue, on Flickr

What does “US NOW” mean for brands?

As one that is always on the for great documentaries, I’m always glad to make a new find. In the category of social media documentary, I have a few favorites:

This semester I came across strands of this social media documentary produced by Banyak Films in 2009 called Us Now. I say strands because the once vibrant link culture around the films is now broken and incomplete. Anyway, I watched the film as a possible “kick off” for the spring digital media marketing class, and fortunately, it is available in its entirety online if you want to give it a watch.

Us Now from Banyak Films on Vimeo.

Everyone had a camera by miss_rogue, on Flickr

The Shift

This social media documentary explores some of the real issues originally presented in the firehose of factoids from the original “Shift Happens” videographic from 2008–now in its sixth version. Cultural shift is happening because users of technology are changing as Clay Shirky says, “Revolution doesn’t happen when we have new tools. Revolution happens when we adopt new behaviors.” While a majority of this film explores the disrupted balance of political power because of technology, at about the half-way mark it explores what this shift in power means to banks, business and brands. As a side note, the makers of this film could only only imagine the role that social media would play in the massive political uprising of the Arab Spring.

For years, I have talked about the shift from broadcast to conversation and connecting, but I was even taken aback at Don Tapscott’s fundamental question: “Why do companies exist?” As a business owner, I can say that having a “marketing firm” allows me to find the best talent and build teams of the best possible collaboration. In the glory days of Mad Men, having all of your creative services on staff was a necessity, but now, as Tapscott suggests, collaboration is now universal to not only employees on the other side of the globe but also customers in our backyard.

Togetherness

Whether in politics or business, those in power dictate the behavior and mode of communication to the others. Traditionally, the few have had the power over the many. In the case of brands, typically a small room of advertising executives could tell the customers what they should think of the brand, but with the advent of social media that has all changed. Customers are now able to band together in ways never imagined to the advertising execs of old and the customers, together, take the message of the brand and buying decisions dictates from the company.

As Lee Bryant said, “Groups of individuals can change things.” Regularly, there are cases of company idiocy exposed by their customers.

United, customers are empowered to refuse being audience to company’s broadcasts. The customers, together, can spread outrage to company’s policies with epidemic speed, and the companies are left to make difficult decisions. The key here is that in the previous era customers were like cattle at pasture, they were fed and watered when called, but otherwise. Now the general public and customers are stakeholders–practically in the board room with the companies.

In conclusion, does this level of transparency and accountability insure the best company behavior? Sometimes, the companies make decisions that go against the popular persuasion. Chick-Fil-A refused to buckle to the social media pressure in the summer of 2012. Is the trend going to be for more companies to stand up for their decisions, or will we see more companies cave to the pressures? If they do cave, is that genuinely a response to the market, or is it a response to a well-crafted consumer campaign?


Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the Chief Marketing Officer at Back Porch Vista. Formerly, he was the president of Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd is an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at jeremyfloyd.com and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.