Over the past several months, millions of Americans have been logging off Facebook. In May alone, more than 6 million said good-bye to the social networking site for good. To give you some perspective, that loss is greater than the total population of Denmark. It may seem like a monumental figure, (let’s be honest, if most of us lost 6 million customers in a month, we’d not only be sounding the alarm, we’d be looking for a new job, too...) but for a company that has over 500 million users, it’s a drop in the bucket. At least for now. For the past year or so, I have started to notice the people around me putting down their smartphones. I’ve watched them grow progressively more comfortable stepping away from the Twitter stream in order to engage in “real-time” hobbies or spend time with their families and friends. They’ve left status updates unmanned. They’ve silenced their ringers, alerts, whistles and bells. And they have begun to become much more present in their real lives.
And to be perfectly frank, I find it refreshing.
I believe we are witnessing the beginning of what I lovingly refer to as “The Return to Real Life.”
For years brands have been putting their eggs in various online baskets. Some were early adopters, others waited for the water to warm up a bit before they hopped in. Many jumped on the bandwagon in search of a quick fix and a magic bullet.
But there is no quick fix. There is no magic bullet.
You know why? Because real life is complicated. And real life happens offline.
Unlike widgets, wonkets, dashboards and baubles, WOMM is sustainable because it is about the people. Real people. It is founded on real relationships. Among other things, WOMM celebrates transparency, trust and community. Three things that cannot be bought, coerced, contracted, rushed or forced.
Real relationships do not come from shiny toys, the app of the day or the simple click of a button. Real relationships stem from a genuine, honest place. Real relationships take time, patience and tending.
Once upon a time, we were primarily exposed to marketing messages through radio, television and print. We didn’t necessarily choose which brands we were exposed to. We sat through commercials, we drove past billboards, we flipped the radio dial. We were exposed to a certain set of brands and marketing messages, and we exercised choice in store aisles when we decided whether or not to buy a certain product or service. We lived in a world of being marketed to.
Today, almost every brand - big and small - has a Facebook page and a Twitter page, and despite advances in DVRing and commercial-free radio, we find ourselves in a somewhat un-evolved situation. The mediums have changed, but we’re still being marketed at.
Instead of sitting through a 30 second TV spot, we’re logging on to find the same conversation taking place in a difference venue...and it still sounds like a (140 character) rendition of the same, old, tired conversation: “ME ME ME ME ME! Buy MY product. Buy MY service. I am so great.”
So what does that mean for the future of WOMM?
When I look into my crystal ball, I see The Return to Real Life as the dawning of a new era. An emergence of WOMM in its purest form.
I believe people will begin to make better use of the minutes of their precious lives.
I believe part of that will include applying much stricter filters to the messages and marketing that they invite into their live and wallets.
I believe brands that dare to show their humanness will be welcomed into our hearts and homes.
I believe there will be a shift from online to offline.
I believe brands that turn their focus from tools and numbers to the real people on the other end of the conversation will not only survive, but thrive, while those who have refused to adapt will find themselves on one side of a self-created wall - and their customers on the other.
I believe brands will not be evaluated based on the number of Facebook fans, rather they will be defined (and celebrated) by the quality of their interaction with fans.
I believe the most successful brands will stop focusing on toys and technology, and start focusing on human beings.
I believe brands will start to recognize the innate and precious power of a small group of passionate, vocal fans.
I believe people will want to connect with brands that make them feel like friends and family.
I believe people will want to connect with brands that are loved by their friends and family.
I believe people will start turning down the volume on brands that talk AT them, and tuning into brands that not only talk WITH them, but listen TO them, too.
A curious observation: If you take the word “ME” and flip the M 180 degrees, it turns into a new word: WE.
The future of WOMM: I believe that people will embrace and elevate brands that reject the notion of “ME” and actively practice the art of “WE.”