Have you ever been in a clothing store where the customers were busy stitching together the goods? Maybe there is a guy in the corner screening designs on to T-shirts or a grandmother doing embroidery on a scarf. How about a restaurant where the customers cook the food (OK – I have been to one of those – many Korean places let you grill at the table but still…)?
I ask this because it’s something pretty common in the digital world. After all, what would Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, and dozens of other sites be without the user-generated content that makes them worth a visit? Sure, each of those sites provides the platform and the tools with which to interact, but if no one ever posted anything what would they be?
What’s triggering this are a couple of things. First, the Instagram fracas I discussed yesterday. Second, Twitter is deigning to let users download all of their tweets as if Twitter had anything at all to do with the content itself. It got me thinking of all the crappy students who got paired up with smart kids in school and got an “A” because the smart kid did all the work and wouldn’t let the team fail. The least one can do is to have an appreciation of and respect for the horse that got you here. The platform is a “C” student – it’s along for the ride in most cases. The importance of the content to those sending and receiving it doesn’t change based on the platform although the platform can help get it into a form that makes it more digestible.
When any of us who run businesses start minimizing the contributions our customers make to us, we’re in trouble. In the case of many digital businesses, where the customers literally make the stuff on which the business depends, we should be thinking of as many ways to reward those folks and how to say “thank you” each and every day. Screwing around with privacy or your data use policy or being obnoxious about using your customers as currency (even though we all know we’re being sold) is a sure way to blow up the business. You with me?