In Today’s Participatory Culture, “People Are The Medium”

Picture 5SocialVibe President and prolific new platform pundit Joe Marchese’s most recent blog entry on MediaPost presents a simple, 21st century update on Marshall McLuhan’s original marketing mindblower “The medium is the message.”  In a few paragraphs, he presents the case for “People are the medium” and his thinking is genuinely compelling. Most notably, he cites how people will spend over three hundred and thirty million hours this year on Facebook alone, creating and sharing incredibly vast quantities of consumer generated content.  To McLuhan’s point, this personal stewardship of content and commentary, the highly human context of all these ideas, inevitably influences how these messages are received.

Marchese believes marketers must reconcile themselves to this new truth and respect the revolutionary notion that people are the medium before they can truly work effectively in social media.  Given that our industry currently lacks the infrastructure resources to do that on a large scale, social media could remain broken as a marketing platform for a long time.  At least as far as Facebook is concerned.

One marketing medium that does recognize people as the medium is the rapidly-expanding specialty of word of mouth.  Today, almost all marketing professionals recognize the increased role recommendation plays in purchase decisions and so word of mouth has exploded as an offering, with agencies, PR firms and specialists all jumping in to set up shop and claim expertise.  Our friend Paul Rand at Zocalo Group got into this space early with the balance of assessment and direct engagement required to change mere observation into actionable influence.  Without participating in the discussions out there, word of mouth remains a game of chance, and no one can afford that these days.

Historically, corporations have proven awkward at connecting with people on a personal level.  As we charge headlong into an increasingly hyper-connected future, we will have to address that.  

If we don’t, we will lose one very valuable medium.  And billions of potential consumers.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

One thought on “In Today’s Participatory Culture, “People Are The Medium”

  1. heathtavrides says:

    This is a great and timely post. As more purchase decisions rely on word-of-mouth, consumers will look to their social networks and friends for recommendations and approval. The importance of social graphs and the ability to tap into them on-demand is going to shape the next era of marketing. The people at Razorfish have deemed this, Social Influence Marketing.

    I agree, historically corporations have had a hard time connecting and personalizing their messages but with businesses on twitter/facebook fan pages providing customer service, advice, etc. – this brings more individualized and tailored direct-responses. Just think when brands will connect with people based on what the friends in our social graphs are saying, doing and buying. Exciting times.

    Thanks for this post and look forward to more discussion,

    Heath Tavrides

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