Advertising vs. People

Watching the last 15 years of the internet develop has been fun to watch. The evolution of social media, the adoption of video, monetization, streaming platforms, the exploitation of personal data and privacy. All fun stuff!

The internet used to feel like the wild west, guns blazing with little regulation. And unlike cable TV which had destroyed itself through the over-saturation of advertising, the internet used to be a place to get away. An island. A fun little island where nobody could find you unless you asked them to.

Fast forward to today. We are right back where we started. Streaming services are polluted with ads, social media tracks you like a wanted fugitive, and 30 seconds of YouTube leaves you suffering through 15 seconds of liberty liberty liberty commercials. We have gone full circle. 

People are smart. We watch idly by as history repeats itself. Helplessly hoping that companies keep their products and services as they once were when we fell in love with them. But companies are not people, and even though they are made up of people, it’s hard to think of a company as anything more than profit and loss. In walks Wall Street.

There’s another fun game, Wall Street. 

But Wall Street isn’t necessarily evil. As companies mature and eventually go public, more and more decisions are made based on a balance sheet and less about the user experience. It seems that Wall Street is the place where good products and services go to die.

So, if we truly are moving backwards, then it is only logical to assume that the medium has to pivot. If exploitative marketing and excessive advertising has reached its breaking point, then when and where will the ship turn? The answer lies in empathy.

Asking Before Trust is Built.

Have you ever been pressured to buy an extended warranty over the phone? Ever feel grossed out? Yeah me too. That’s the same way we feel when someone on the internet asks for our time without establishing trust. Subscribing, liking, signing up for a newsletter. All before inherent trust has been built.  Feels a little pushy..

Content with Purpose is Content Worth Doing.

If you are using content to attract or support your business, it can be a powerful tool. The medium is great if done right. But more often than not, it’s misused. Long Winded introductions, desperate plea for subscribers or likes, shameless plugs, invitations to events that get you in the door only to spam you with services that you have little use for. At least the happy hour was fun, chugging down one last beer before you surreptitiously spring for the door. 

To quote Shooter McGavin: Here’s a free lesson. Content does not have to end with an “ask”.

Content can be inspiring and informative. Giving away information, just to do it, is an admirable venture. By helping someone without any strings attached, you can create a community. You can enrich the universe. And you can achieve this through empathy.

Video vs. Writing.

Video has its place in the world but I would rather write. It’s faster, it’s more direct, and it can be “ask-less”. By writing empathically you are asking for nothing and nothing is granted. It’s thoughts on a page. If the reader is engaged, they will keep reading. If they hate it, they won’t. Through writing, there can be sincerity, expression and a transfer of knowledge without any further expectations.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery.

Someone once told me that the world is out of ideas: And that’s ok. 

It is truly rare to find a unique idea that has never been tried before. And even products like the iPhone that systematically changed the world were essentially just a better iteration of phones, computers, and cameras combined. This paragraph is meant to be liberating. If this is true, then you can use the freedom that this statement provides to you.

Follow the success. Imitate what works. And please, do it empathetically.