Anyone notice the ever-so-subtle shift that is happening right before our eyes? What was once assumed that the world was perfectly content living life very publicly – live tweeting lunch, sharing their location at any given moment – is slowly starting to change. And I believe we are on the cusp of the anonymity revolution. Don’t believe me, well then how about the recent headline: “Facebook Is About To Let You Go Anonymous For The First Time”. Dun-dun-duuuuuuunnnnnn.
And let’s be honest, if Facebook is getting into it, with their 1 billion users, there has got to be a reason. I am sure it started before Snapchat, but since then, there has been a pretty good shift toward anonymous/private content. Look at Whisper or Secret; people have a desire to keep some thoughts and opinions private. In fact, I wish some of my social network would consider their political updates as a Whisper instead…#justsayin. Even with Path, you select a small group of people to interact with. People you can trust to know who you are and get your jokes that others might find slightly off-putting. Because there is a demand and a need.
How do I know?
I have been learning a lot about rapid prototyping and lean methodology lately and what I have found is that if a shift is happening en mass, it is because someone had an idea and the people who they asked about that idea loved it and spread it around the world. Because nothing grows exponentially unless it solves an unmet human need. Think about it: we are now all very comfortable using technology to update people in the world about our current thoughts and conditions. But, what’s happened is that those thoughts are the thoughts we WANT people to know about us.
Our social presence is becoming an exercise in personal branding. And you know what? When people try to brand themselves, the focus is always on the aspiration of how they want to be perceived. Not who they actually are. And it is lonely. Because it is lonely and we do not want the world to know what’s really going on when we are not our “branded” persona, we need an outlet. There is an unmet human need to be heard in those moments when we are a scared child.
This is a boon to marketers
All of this private and anonymous content could be a scary trajectory for many social marketers. I mean we are just getting the whole social media/content marketing thing nailed. But, the shift to anonymous social and identity obscuring content doesn’t have to mean that our social broadcast outlets are going to shrink. I do not see a day anytime soon when people will stop using social channels altogether. Yes, the platforms will change, but the behavior is now ingrained in society. To me saying that anonymity will lead to the death of social is like saying: “Well, because I have Facebook I’m never call my mom or best friend again”. We will still have social media to attract and interact with customers.
The real opportunity is that with these new outlets, we can get a LOT more insight, albeit anonymously, into the minds and hearts of people who might be buying our products. Insights into our deepest customer thoughts are GOLD! Understanding their inner thoughts and quiet fears is better than any focus group ever done. Because no one sees who they are. They are talking in the dark with a voice modulator. People can hear them but have no idea who is making the sound.
Maybe we use tools like Whisper or Secret to study people to understand what they are thinking privately. We understand their fears and joys. When we understand our customer, we can create experiences and content for them that has a deeper, more resonate connection and isn’t that what we all want anyway, to feel connected to someone or something that understands me?
Gathering these types of insights was never before available so, it is entirely possible that we are not shifting, but gaining. People will continue to use social in traditional ways, but they are also going to use new tools to express who they are when no one is looking. It is an extra layer for our marketing and we should use it wisely.