We live in interesting times. Diverse times. Partisan times. Niche times. There are so many tribes. And tribes within tribes. It splinters even more like tastes for millions of unique songs.
It’s a big challenge for anyone needing an audience. Let alone a captive audience.
A majority arguably no longer exists – to represent any demographic.
For the Marketer. For the Artist. For the President.
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The internet puts each person on a different island.
There are millions of unique personalized profiles. Everyone is an island online.
An audience no longer really has a common profile. I belong to my profile more than any community.
What is someone really willing to do for another island? Or do most people prefer their own island?
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“starting to understand why change isn't happening as much as it should be...the good guys aren't organized”
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I keep on thinking how Derek Sivers started a movement after TED, where he used a video to explain what a movement is.
In this video, a boy (a “weird nut”) started to dance. One person joined causing some to follow, until eventually critical mass formed a mass dance.
But quietly, I wondered to myself, is this really true in real life?
I questioned the analogy mainly because I had first seen the video in 2009. And it was only when Derek Sivers blogged of it and analyzed it for a TED speech in 2010 that a movement was created for that video.
Friends kept emailing links to Derek Sivers.
But why didn’t the original video start a bigger movement?
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Recently I had my own experiment for a movement.
One can say the experiment was even rigged. Only friends and family were participants.
I included a sample of people who inspired others at some point in life, producing work that changed lives. These people knew Change.
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Not sure if I qualify as a “weird nut” but many say so. That’s what happens with regular experimentation.
To start participation, I used a Swedish story-telling application. You upload a photo and the person in that photo becomes part of a video. This video was about heroism.
In this example, I inserted a photo of one of my heroes, Andrea Ramolo, singing in New York City:
A friend out west involved with a music cause shared this heroic story first. I thought it was so brilliant (and heroic), I decided to share it.
What happened next might be a revelation in how work, art or beliefs may be perceived.
What happened next was not exactly a movement or Stockholm Syndrome.
Andrea was inspired by its impact. So was her producer and a fan. They found it hilarious. A friend of hers didn’t get it.
A friend in Ireland making a film responded quietly. Her friend in Asia loved it so much she chatted with me online about it. She tried to share it with her friends (some were “scared”).
A narrator for Canada's most successful documentary thought it was hilarious.
A Vancouver actress was inspired by it.
An actress with a play in LA was also inspired by it and so was a fan of hers.
My business partner didn’t have time to click the link on his Facebook page. He was too busy with deadlines.
A corporate social responsibility film-maker uploaded his own photo for the hero story. His brother called it narcissistic.
An Arts Reporter with whom I socialize regularly couldn’t access it (computer too jammed). But she immediately opined she was disappointed the video was fictional. She felt set up. Her friend, a theater publicist, thought it was brilliant.
I emailed it for a cause sponsor opportunity in Los Angeles, as an example of heroic storytelling online, but I wasn’t sure if the email link was understood.
A singer in New York thought it was the weirdest thing she had ever seen. My daughter in Tokyo thought it was weird too.
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As you can see, this is not exactly a movement where everyone reacts the same way (like followers in that weird dance).
The reality today is that there’s no such thing as a homogenous reaction—that same desired effect—or common belief shared by all.
People are stratified and diversified now more than ever – so much so, no movement can sustain, or be unified en masse to an extent we’d like to believe. Our idea of an audience as “one” might not be the reality of what an audience actually is.
If people who inspire me, know me and respect me (and vice versa) react so differently to the same idea…random strangers will be even more varied.
Uniform response no longer exists like it used to.
I wonder if that Applause sign still works to make people believe.
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A playwright recently wondered how some teens in an audience could react with hate to a play about sexual orientation. Granted, sexual orientation can be readily politicized or have ignorant reactions but I argue that opposition could happen for any topic.
A common audience response can’t be expected.
So when an Artist creates art, a Politician creates policy, or a Marketer launches an ad campaign, there’s no such thing winning a specific demographic.
The internet has pluralized, amplified and personalized the uniqueness of identities among millions of people.
Women follow Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton with opposite views, and views that don’t represent women in Haiti. Winning women no longer means one thing. It may even mean opposite things.
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I spoke with a flight attendant about how random it is to receive an unruly passenger. Did this person have a bad day? Is this person an anxious smoker? Is this person hung over or annoyed? Did this person have bad travels beforehand? Who knows?
On any given day, the same person’s reaction may differ for the same activity.
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I spoke with a restaurant server about a book that should be written: The Customer Is Sometimes Wrong.
Some customers, she said, make it a point to bully servers, venting frustrations…from their island.
There are many ridiculous stories never said (but should be in this book). I then asked what the chances are of experiencing this.
Her answer: Random but far from rare.
Similarly, an Artist, Politician or Marketer might easily be called upon to serve someone like this. A person can be simply unhappy – no matter what you do.
I asked the server what she remembered most: 1)Your worst or 2) Your best.
The response was interesting. She remembered bad customers for sure (but also the good). She provides her best customers with better service (no surprise). And she purposely gives bad service to bad customers (invisibly of course).
I think that’s the lesson learned.
There’s no movement today with everyone around. It’s ultimately about giving the best customers your best.
Not saying that there’s no room for feedback. Or that things won’t be contagious. But I am saying life is not a "weird nut" starting a dance, and expecting everyone to follow.