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.


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 President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was 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.

  • Bryan Thomason

    I thought the documentary was informative and gave a good perspective on how social media is changing the way we act and how we view ourselves with in the world.

    Lastly, in regards to your questions on the blog post, in my opinion I think that companies (and individuals for that matter) should act more in the likes of Chick-fil-a by acting on priniciple and morals and not just on the current social media trend. Most of the time, the general public can get it right, and the effects of people banding together have caused great things to happen when people have been seriously wronged. There are also times when the general public can be wrong, (in my opinion, especially when it comes to moral and ethical issues) and I don’t think that it is wise for us as a society to act based on solely on the opinion of others. If all we did was act on what others thought of us, we would never have great people like Henry Ford or Thomas Edision who did so much to revolutionize our modern world.

  • jvice

    In today’s world of everyone having to put in their own two cents, relevant or not, an individual’s voice and opinion has been able to have a huge impact on not only markets but businesses themselves. Though this new trend may help businesses and markets evolve, the massive load of opinion may not always be right. Many people boycotted Chick-fil-A in 2012 for voicing a conservative opinion, but it has been known from the beginning of Chick-Fil-A’s founding that they hold a religious view unlike many food chains, even as going so far as to giving up revenue by closing Sundays in order to give employees time with their family. So when people are shocked, that an operating officer gave contributions to a religious fund that happened to oppose gay marriage, is absurd. The company has a point of view that they have stuck by since their creation, so why should they hold their tongues because people do not agree with their views? This would only alienate even more customers who may share the same view as Chick-Fil-A. This is an example that even though the masses can get together for a cause that a few despise, these masses may not always be right, or may not even be able to make a change. (e.g. The Occupy Movement) This is America and a company has the right to share their own individual view on subjects no matter if they alienate a few customers or not.

    In regards to the film US Now, I have a problem with sites like Zopa. The firm means well and the idea is great to help people who need micro-loans, but when more and more sites like Zopa come online there will become a saturation of the market. If so many sites become operational, funds that lenders are willing to shell out will be spread too thin, and projects that need a lot of funding may find themselves without the help they need because lenders are going to other sites to lend what they have. The idea would be fantastic if only a few sites like Zopa existed, but over time I think we will see a large amount of these loan sites come online.

  • Not a finance guy here, so help me understand, how do microlending institutions or microventure sites like Kickstarter oversaturate the market of lending? Seems that corporate lenders are staking investment/insurance dollars for large ventures and microfinancing organizations are staking personal income for an some opportunity (equity in the success, ROI, etc.). While the micro institutions may compete with one another that would seem to produce efficiency in that market without corporate or investment banking. Like I said, not a a finance guy, so help me understand this point.

  • Great point. Let’s explore this issue deeper when we discuss the case study of Motrin and Chick-Fil-A in class. You are right. Ultimately, someone has to make a decision as to whether the group is right or wrong, and it becomes very dicey in the moral area. Mobs have a two-thousand year history of making bad decisions. When an organization, however, has codified their core values and live them each day, they make these types of decisions with greater ease.

  • Jeremy Rowell

    Nice video about the ever changing world and the impact of social media. The “shift” that we are seeing today is unlike anything the world has ever seen. Its amazing how many channels are available to communicate with family, friends and strangers. The channels are multiplying daily. We are living in unique times.

  • Indeed.

  • Peyton

    I thought the video was quite interesting and thought provoking. I also found the video to be a bit disturbing. It was disturbing to see how the world has begun to move into more and more of a virtual reality. One in which a great portion of people’s meaningful interactions with others is done online instead of face to face or on the telephone.

  • Interesting observation using the telephone as a comparison to the web. Do you believe that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that people said the same of telephones? Both mediums restrict the level of nuance that one may observe (the web to a greater degree). However, it seems that what the web loses in subtlety people are more empowered to self-express.

  • Alli Paryse

    In response to “Togetherness”, I find it interesting that a consumers role has changed so much in the marketing world due to social media. Although “word of mouth” has always been present in the past and has never been ignored by marketers, the impact it can have on a company or product is scaled at a much higher level now. The Motrin advertisement seemed completely harmless to me, and if social media wasn’t as “alive” as it is now, the controversy probably would of never gotten that out of hand. Word of mouth has an extremely rapid snowball affect in the social media world making it imperative that marketers pay close attention to what is being said in that “world”.

    I think that chick-fil-a’s decision to go against the media pressure was a good decision. The transparency that is happening now gives marketers absolutely everything they need to know about how their customers are reacting to their products. I feel that that this level of transparency will benefit companies in the long run, it will just take more research and time for marketers to determine what types of customers they are looking to attract and what the majority of those customers are saying. Once those two large components are determined, they should be successful in adapting to the customers wants and needs!

  • Great comment Alli! Glad that you took the time to check out the Motrin Ad. I agree that at least the case could be made that rather than flush a $30 million ad campaign, Motrin execs could have engaged all of the bandwagon blasters. It will be fun to discuss this in class.

  • Very interesting start to class!
    In essence, I’m looking forward to reading and finding out more about this subject and how businesses will react to the possibility of social backlashes.
    I’d have to say, based on what I’ve seen in the past few years, companies tend to be more interested in maintaining a great customer-service-oriented relationship with their consumers. (Because, let’s face it, without customers, companies would quickly and easily go out of business.) Nevertheless, simply in the case of Chick-Fil-A, there are places where companies must draw the line. Granted, especially with the changing of the world, more and more companies that are interested in standing firm on principles or on “old” ways of thinking and marketing will soon find themselves either out of money or out of competition.
    To me, this idea of allowing customers to be “practically in the boardroom” could cause companies to implode as well. My reasoning behind this is that, based on our pasts and what has happened in this world, people tend to follow the pack. What I mean by that is most people, more specifically Americans, (and the younger ones at that) tend to fall into a group-think mentality where, if a multiude of people think/act one way then they do the same thing; and this could be at the benefit or the detriment of a company/government. I’m not utterly opposed to the idea of speaking, suggesting, and, in essence, governing ourselves; I just don’t believe that our nature is interested in benefiting each other but instead we only think of ourselves.
    Ultimately, I don’t know. We think we know a lot and can make decisions on behalf of a company/government, however there are people out there (and many of them) that I don’t want to have that much power to influence major decisions.

  • Debra Liendecker

    Unfortunately, we are all subjecting ourselves to society’s judgment and scrutiny as we continue to put ourselves on public display through digital media sources such as Twitter and Facebook. Celebrities, politicians, musicians and even corporations like Chick-Fil-A make decisions that are good, bad or indifferent and its instantly the headlines of Twitter, USA Today or People Magazine. The example of Instagram modifying their Terms of Service shows how quickly one decision can create a mutiny against your company. Not only did National Geographic threaten to pull the plug but celebrities including Kim Kardashian took to Twitter with their outrage for Instagram’s “poor decision making” even threatening to cancel their Instagram accounts. The company went from approximately 19 million users to less than 9 million in less than a month as a result. Instagram quickly addressed the concern with a commitment to review their previous Service Terms revisions. An ill-fated decision resulted in bad publicity and loss of users. I believe Chick-Fil-A is more of an anomaly when compared to most companies who will be inclined to cave to social pressures. Ultimately, the more transparent you become, the more risk you take and the more vulnerable you make yourself. The question really becomes is the risk worth the reward?

  • Ginger Duggan

    The “Shift happens” video helps to highlight how important it
    is for businesses to have a social presence.
    Social media allows customers to communicate with companies.The
    companies that learn how to create a platform for customer interaction will be
    the ones that are successful. There
    comes a time when incorporating the new norms is no longer a choice, but a
    requirement. Remember when pay at the
    pump was first introduced at gas stations?
    During the transition time, wouldn’t you avoid the stations that had not
    converted yet? If companies will take
    the time to listen, customers will tell them exactly what they want and what
    makes them loyal customers. These same
    companies can also turn complaints into great customer service
    testimonials. The companies that respond
    to their customers will be the ones creating loyal brand ambassadors. Social media also creates a lot of data for
    companies to comb through. By learning
    how to manage all the data, a company can see trends and patterns and will have
    valuable information that allows them to have enormous competitive

  • Michael Richman

    I thought the documentary gave great insight into how our world is changing so rapidly. If properly harnessed crowd-sourcing can be such a powerful force, as can be seen especially in the example of Linux. The fact that people are willing to pour so much time and effort in to a project that they are not being compensated for, but have a real passion for is incredible. As our online communication continues to evolve, I can see many more influential products coming as a result of crowd-sourcing as a million individuals working towards something they want will generally result in a much better product than a room of executives developing what they think the market wants.

    In regards to the question in your blog, I believe more and more companies will cave to consumer pressure. Consumers have never been so empowered to voice their concerns; now having the real ability to curve public opinion on a product or company. The Instagram debacle really highlights how quickly a user base can turn against the product.

  • Kayla Stewart

    The Documentary
    was a good video that shows how rapidly society is changing and how much trust
    we are putting into social media. I was blown away when I saw how easily people
    are meeting someone online then going to their house to stay on their couch.
    Just shows how much we are progressing as a society because of online
    communication. I also like the fact that people were getting to have a say in
    the teams and sports that they loved and devote so much time to. I agree that
    companies should listen to what the people say because it’s the people who keep
    them in business.

    I more so enjoyed
    watching the video “Shift Happens” because it clearly stated the
    facts of the presence of social media in our lives today. Companies have to
    market their self-using online to be able to reach the amount of people to keep
    their self-in business. Our Society has grown and I personal get overwhelmed
    with all of the different types of digital media such twitter, blog, Google +
    and Facebook. Not only am I trying to work my job at 50+ hours a week but I am
    trying to stay updated on everything else around me and my friends by using
    online communications instead of a phone call or texting! It can also be scary because
    people are able to know everything about our life in a matter of a click. It honestly
    can become too much to try and check in on all these different types of digital

  • Kayla Bracey

    The Us Now video was an excellent documentary about online networks and how they make possible self-organizing structures that could change society. Millions of people are using blogs, chat rooms, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other digital medias to add their voices to online communities or debates. These social networks have made it easier for a large audience to work together towards a shared goal and be heard. I found it interesting that thousands of fans around the world were picking the team for the football match. I start to wonder, if a large group of people are running an organization such as a football club, what can they do next?
    In regards to the Togetherness questions, there has been an outbreak of companies caving in to customer demands lately. A company will announce they are doing something and then after receiving criticism over social media the company changes their policies. I know everyone has heard the phrase “The customer is always right.” Well that phrase works in the situation. Once the companies found out over digital media the customers were not pleased with their business plans, they decided to give the customers what they wanted. As mentioned, there was once a time when companies told customers what they did, and if the customer liked it they bought it. If they didn’t, they went somewhere else.What businesses soon realized was they needed customers, customers don’t need businesses. Now customers have more of a say about what happens inside a company.

  • Nick Collins

    The documentary brought to light how connecting with people, via the internet, has changed the way we look at some things. The thought of using the internet to travel and stay on people’s couches is one that I’m sure would have been unthinkable a few years back. The trust that people share when using the internet is something that I am not sure that I could do. I thought the most interesting part was the soccer team that let the fans choose their starting line up. The degree of faith in their fanbase to do such a thing is amazing. I wish that some of our football teams would use this system.

  • Nice call on Linux, Mike! Great example of collective development creating the operating system running a majority of the world’s web servers. Wikis, which we’ll all get tired of hearing about by semester’s end, is another example of crowd-sourcing.

  • There’s a lot of noise on any of those networks. There’s also a lot of noise in our daily lives. It is estimated that we see more than 3000 marketing messages per day. In order to deal with all of the noise, we build our own filters to cut through the noise and find the signal that is relevant to us.

  • Yeah, what did Henry Ford say, “You can have any color car you want as long as it’s black.” Customer service has never before been directed at the mob. Great points.

  • Yeah, what would it look like if football looked more like fantasy football? Could be cool. Might be crazy.

  • Brad Slaughter

    The internet continues making the voice of the individual louder as we speak. One example that pops in my head is the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill which was introduced by congress. The Reddit community took notice and was cited by some politicians as a voice in the matter that was too large to ignore. The Instagram policy changes happened in a similar matter except have been seen as a bad precedent by many.

    Instagram took more of the legal jargon out but actually created a policy that gives more control over uploaded content through ambiguity. This can be a bad thing in the future if companies take notice and decide that ambiguity to their customers is safer than full encompassing policies that may frighten consumers with legal terms. By not explicitly stating their intentions with digital material they allow themselves room to act as they please without scaring customers.

  • Zach Monroe

    I found the “Us Now” documentary to be very interesting. The part about the consumer funded lending (Zopa) and the fan owned soccer team (Ebbsfleet) really stood out. What novel ideas that show the way society has reacted out to the changing times. However, the part about a government completely run by its people sounds arduous with the differing opinions that exsist among a nations’ people.

    In response to your questions… I believe this transparency and accountability we see from companies does eventually lead to the best behavior by keeping them “in-check”. Obviously, not every decision by a company, although it may have the best intentions, is going to be popular to consumers. I was proud to see Chick-Fil-A stand up for its beliefs and values but in this day and time more and more companies are caving to consumer pressures. Companies can not afford to let public relations turn sour because with social media today information can spread more quickly than ever. For instance, just look at the patrolling done on social media sites, like Twitter, for displeased customers. Companies are seeing the benefits of trying to take care of individual issues before they escalate.

  • Andre Charitat

    Sorry if this is a similar repost but I don’t know if my first comment will every be published or not. Here’s to erring on the side of caution.

    I feel that the documentary was very interesting and eye opening. I knew that the internet has changed our lives but I really had no idea as to the extent that it has been changed. The Cluetrain Manifesto points out that the internet meets the basic human need to connect, and I feel that this is the fundamental reason as to why the internet has become the global force that it is today. We use the internet for everything, from online banking to posting pictures, but some have gotten extremely creative as to the application of the internet. The documentary gives us examples of how human ingenuity has shaped the internet and allowed us to do crazy things, like pick soccer players for a team. I can only imagine how many men out there would love to channel their NFL rage at the coaches and instead of yell uselessly at the TV, they could log on and pick the players they want to see on the field. I also thought that it was interesting how we could actually use the internet to loan money to others that we have never met before. In response to the blog post, I think that the internet has transformed the average consumer into an extremely informed consumer, one that is more than happy to act on that information I might add. Companies are now having to be careful with each decision that they make, as the internet has made information readily available that previously would have stayed within the confines of that company. I also believe that when a company makes a controversial decision that they should stick with it and back their decision. When they cave in to popular opinion and revoke the decision they look extremely fake. You contributed funds to a certain cause for a reason and you should stand up for your beliefs. By backing down you are showing that you can be easily swayed and honestly it makes the company look superficial. I would rather the company explain why they made the decision and move on.

  • Thanks Andre. The first comment was flagged as spam, but I took care of that just now. See you tomorrow!

  • Thanks Brad. The SOPA example is interesting. The chatter level seemed as high as the current gun debate. It will be interesting to see if that is picked back up or not.

  • John Lee

    This documentary has really shown me how versatile technology can be. It seems like people are becoming more aware of the harnessing the true potential of the internet through social networking and collaboration. Makes me wonder when all this chaos will finally be streamlined to simplicity. In response to your question, information is power. Smart companies will conform to the “rules” of the internet in order to become or stay successful. The internet is freedom.

  • Josiah Clagett

    Great recommendation on that documentary! Among many words that popped into my head while reading the blog post and watching ‘Us Now,’ accountability came to mind the most. I have thought on this idea that we can play a major role in the government and in major corporations by being aware of what people are saying about them and by passing it on through the interwebs. It is a remarkable thing that puts the world in a strange predicament. I am excited to be a part of this cultural shift.

    As a lover of travel and as someone who plans to utilize couch surfing in the near future, I am very grateful for the amount of accountability and trust represented in the video in regard to couch surfing. I have had very good experiences with the couch surfing network thus far.

  • Brittany Smith

    Thoroughly enjoyed the video we watched. I thought it was fascinating how technology has enable us to tear down physical barriers and allowed such a broad sharing of information amongst not only our immediate peers, but the rest of the world. What concerns me most is that this level of transparency, while beneficial for consumers and businesses, could be misused and pose a viable personal threat. I don’t consider myself a social media expert, but would love to utilize the things we will learn in this course to better enable (and arm) myself for what future technology has in store.

  • Drew Crawford

    I think the shift from traditional to digital media is good for brands. Like you pointed out, people have the power to change things. Not everyone is right all the time, and together we can make our businesses more effective. Customers can now communicate instantly with a company, from anywhere in the world. On the other hand, videos can go viral quickly and tarnish a brand image. Companies now must be more careful than ever with how they communicate with customers because their conversations might be public.

  • Taylor S

    This documentary was very interesting to read. It’s amazing how our world is rapidly changing with new technologies and more ways to communicate with each other. We are becoming a cyber world!!

  • Ryan Sachs

    “Us Now” was a very interesting documentary. I think it was beneficial to see the different communities and areas of Europe as examples of how times are changing and the individual usage of digital marketing.
    As far as the togetherness part of the blog, I like the examples given. Chick-fil-A is an excellent example of how viral marketing can be. Although this stemmed from a comment about personal beliefs, this effected the whole company. It is important to portray yourself and what you do as an individual in a professional manner because you never know who is watching or what you might due that could be offensive or taken the wrong way.

  • Gtharper

    For some reason I cannot get the video to play. But as for the article. I think that this is a great idea that consumers are now able to be heard when they speak. I feel that this will make companies think before they sat or do. I also believe that companies can use this to their advantage to test ideas before they put hem in the market.

  • Kayla Dotson

    The togetherness part really sticks out to me, because it’s as if companies are caving into whatever it is that their customers want. However, this is what most companies mission statement is all about. Catering to the needs of their customers to the best of their ability. I for one was behind Chick-fil-a when they didn’t back down against their word. People will try to make a big deal out of nothing just gain power or just to get everybody else on the band wagon. Everybody knows that Chick-fil-a is a religious restaurant, therefore it should not be a surprise that they believe in a man and woman companionship. From what I know it was the opinion of the CEO, therefore he has every right to feel that way. I understand this generation of people is into knowing every personal thing about the next person, but that shouldn’t be the issue when it comes to companies. Honestly, companies should stick to what they believe in but show it in a way where it’s not so offensive.

  • overall social media seems to be changing rapidly through our generation. It seems as if some companies are trying to stay away from social media but at the same time they need social media to help there businesses grow overall.

  • the video was a little bit distinctive showing how the world is changing due to the technology in today’s society. The youth especially need to view this video because i believe they hold most of these companies accountable for using these social media sites

  • Pingback: Business 'Deciders' Beware: Social Media Moves Maker's Mark - Jeremy Floyd | Jeremy Floyd()

  • With the latest technological trends leading to a marketplace that is extremely vulnerable to the criticisms of consumers, organizations are forced to react more quickly and properly to service failures than they ever have before. I do think that these levels of transparency and accountability these businesses are forced to deal will result in better business behaviors. With a company’s overall well being sitting in the hands of consumers they have no choice but properly run their day-to-day activities with the consumer in mind at all times. Previously businesses could still prosper as long as they didn’t anger or upset too large of a percentage of their consumer base. Now, a single individual has the power to spend a week end creating a YouTube video that will appeal to the senses of the masses. This is a very dangerous tool that is empowering the consumer, thus stripping organizations of their ability to bully the consumer.