Do you remember Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood and the catchy theme song at the beginning…'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' It got me thinking about social networks and how through them, we all engage in today's hyper-connected, technological world.
I am certain that by now just about everyone (but maybe my own father) has a Facebook page, a LinkedIn profile, possibly a Pinterest account, and maybe Twitter, Spotify, or some other form of an online presence that serves as a statement about certain aspects of who they are and what they like. We have created micro-communities within the Internet ether that allow for others to inspect, friend, watch, learn and listen to what we post or merit a 'like.' Friends or brands can very clearly see our political views, favorite foods, preferred brands and even what kind of music we each listen to. Through my own social networking presence, I have provided a roadmap to my personality and persona.
These social networks make it easier than ever to make new friends, learn about old ones, check on brands or learn just about anything we want'all in real time. I would argue that these social platforms also generate new grounds on which to base trust and build circles of influence. Now more friends and contacts can validate who you are and the decisions or purchases that you make. In a sense, we are building virtual neighborhoods.
The 1950s portrayed community with a picture of someone borrowing a cup of sugar from his neighbor or leaving them a May basket or asking for advice about the local doctors. In contrast, community is now illustrated through page recommendations, tags in photos, or even LinkedIn connections that land you a job. And you don't even have to leave Starbucks to be a part of these neighborhoods.
I recently read an article in Fast Company Design that I believe to be along the same line of thinking. Tim Morey makes the comment in Reputation-Enhanced Lending and Trading Goes Mainstream, that:
'...The really interesting trend here is that new forms of trust are being enabled by social networking technology. We all joined Facebook and LinkedIn to stay in touch with colleagues and friends, but the upshot of mass adoption is that we can check up on virtually everyone we come across. Individuals who have never met or interacted are using social networks to validate one another. If I'm just selling something to you on Craigslist, it doesn't really matter to me whether you're a good or bad person; I take the cash, you take goods, and that's it. But if I'm renting something to you, trust becomes critical. I want to know that you are not a crook, a thief, or just a generally unpleasant person. By linking person-to-person transactions to social networks, we are reducing the need for cash deposits and other financial remedies to the bad-egg problem. While logging in to third-party websites using your Facebook identity is now commonplace, we are beginning to see person-to-person exchanges making use of social networks to broker trust. For example, before you stay at someone's spare bedroom via Airbnb, you have to sign in with your profile. I recently rented someone's house in Toronto for a few days, and between our respective social networks, we found enough friends, relatives, and colleagues in common for him to lend me the property with confidence.'
These concepts are truly astounding. We are building networks of people that we rely on in the way we would our closest neighbors. As we evolve further, it will be critical for brands to develop new ways of engaging consumers based on how they interact within their 'neighborhoods.' Listening to and understanding these new dynamics will be important as mainstream media and traditional channels risk becoming stale.
Day One stories by Prudential are a great example how to use storytelling in a way that allows for the 'neighbor' in all of us to relate to others. You want to hear their stories, learn about them, and see their lives. Prudential uses traditional channels to exploit their online engagement model and storytelling to get at the heart of consumers in a world where high tech ultimately also means high touch. It's almost as if, because of technology and the lack of more physical contact, the messages have to be even more emotionally compelling to garner that sense of 'neighbor' and connectedness. I love it.
Would you be mine, could you be mine, won't you be my neighbor?