More social media awesomeness for you! Matt Shaw, Senior Account Executive at DigitasLBi writes a great post about the future of social media and how it will be the key to surviving the makerpocalypse. Next month's theme is Data & Analytics, interesting in writing a guest blog? E-mail taylor [at] mitx [dot] org.
Matt Shaw (@NotMattShaw) develops and executes social content strategies for clients across DigitasLBi Boston. Over the last few years he’s worked with brands across industries including technology, insurance, consumer-packaged goods, athletic wear, spirits, and more. He currently lives in central Massachusetts with his wife and three children.
On the face of it, so-called “makers”—those who use their creativity to make consumer goods that are traditionally purchased—could pose a serious threat to businesses of all sizes. As many as 57% of Americans over the age of 18 identify as makers. Maker culture has sprung up in nearly every industry, empowering ordinary folks to be increasingly self-sustaining in any number of small ways, and that will only increase with the prominence 3-D printing and similar technologies.
When this consumer behavior begins to affect the bottom line—when, for example, automotive service departments lose revenues because people can print cheap replacement parts in their living rooms—the inevitable scramble to ride the tide of maker culture will begin. But how to avoid the scramble? The answer has something to do with social media.
It’s All About Value…
What we have to understand about maker culture is what motivates the maker. There is an assumption that things that are made (by which we mean handcrafted, or some approximation of that word) are in some fashion better than things that are produced (by which we mean mass-produced, roughly). Made things are not necessarily better quality, and they are not necessarily cheaper. But they do have greater intellectual value, and that is the reason people make and buy them.
But the act of making something is the only apparent source of intellectual value. In other words, a pen that is printed in one’s living room is of higher intellectual value than a pen made by Bic, even if the former is an exact replica of the latter.
So if maker culture trades in intellectual value, and if that value is some incalculable sum created by the simple fact of the thing having been made and not produced, then there is nothing to prevent brands from participating. Bic could sell the design files for a Bic pen, for instance, and a maker-culture consumer would be perfectly happy with his new 3D-printed pen.
But what is that design file? It’s not a pen. It doesn’t incur production costs like a pen. It doesn’t cost money to package it like a pen. You don’t have to ship it like a pen. That design file is a relatively simple piece of intellectual property. Think of it like the whitepaper you’re peddling on your site right now. The pen is now exactly the same. It is distributed through the exact same channels, at a fraction of the cost of your actual pens.
And because you already have a system in place to distribute digital content, you’re already one step down the right path. Think about all the time you spent developing your social media channels, growing followers, measuring engagement rates, converting the channels to media distribution networks once the novelty of “being on the Facebook” wore off… What do you have to show for it?
You have digital media channels that you can use not merely for advertising your products (the digital kind—the design files of your pen, for instance), but also for actually distributing product. Think about it like shipping auto parts through email, or tweeting someone a new pair of shoes.
Remember when Facebook was a bright, shiny bauble that you had to legitimize to your bosses? This is the “a-ha!” moment you envisioned for them. Because your products will soon be able to be shipped through digital media, it may be time to start thinking not of your next product line, but the next line of code that makes your existing product transmissible. In other words, start thinking about how to tweet someone a new pair of shoes. The good news is that the transmission lines have already been built, and thanks to things like social media, you’re already set up to use them. Now go use them.