The Accidental Narcissist and the Future of Customer Engagement

BrianSolis
Brian Solis Principal, Altimeter Group

Posted on June 5th 2014

The Accidental Narcissist and the Future of Customer Engagement

social media and changing behavior

Have you ever noticed that your Facebook News Feed is the digital equivalent to “It’s a Wonderful Life?” Perhaps you’ve liked your Instagram stream to that of “Lifestyles of the Digital Rich and Internet Famous.”

In each network, and across multiple social streams, you’re fed a visual buffet of travel, food, fashion, celebrations, which in assemblage, tell the story of life well lived or at least a life well curated. And at the center of each of these experiences is the person living and sharing them in real time. Every day that passes, it seems that a growing network of our friends, family and colleagues are charmed with this picturesque life.

But who are we kidding? We not only described pretty much everyone in our social networks, but we might as well be talking about ourselves too. It’s a social world after all and shared experiences are the epicenter of a growing majority of engagement. As such, we’re introduced to new law of social physics if you will where for every action there is an equal or greater reaction. The truth is that social sharing is part self-expression and also part provocation. People share to communicate who they are or want to be while concurrently hoping to incite a reaction that validates or substantiates their intended online persona.

This may seem like a personal discussion, but I can assure you that this also has everything to do with your business.

I’d like to officially introduce you to your connected customer. I believe it’s about time we get to know the connected set to better understand how to engage them in social and mobile networks now and throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

It’s All About You and Me…But Mostly Me

If you’re reading this then you’re most likely the very person you’re trying to reach. You’re connected, always on, unabashedly multitasking, and living across multiple screens each and every day. You live a digital lifestyle and without realizing it, you and others like you, are gradually exhibiting slivers of narcissism. Believe me, I say this with the utmost discretion. You can’t help it of course. These networks prompt you to share your world, your way, all day, every day. And each time we do, we contribute to our egosystem where we by default become the center of our own digital universe. Experiences and engagement therefore represent the orbits that bring us together.

Let’s visit planet Facebook and its orbiting moon Instagram for a moment. Facebook is now home to over one billion digital denizens. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly about ~12 percent of planet earth. Instagram is a fledgling digital society in its own right. At 100 million residents and counting, a culture of sharing one’s experiences is further enhanced by the ability to instantly enhance them with a creative filter, broadcast them across multiple networks and earn the attention and reaction of a boundless and seemingly idle audience.

The question is, if everyone is busy sharing content, then who is consuming it? This is also the law of social attraction. It’s a reciprocal relationship where to earn reactions, one must equally or progressively react. How do you do that if the real-time web moves in well, real-time?

The Age of Prevalence

Understanding digital behavior has never known greater importance. It’s evolving and we need to appreciate its velocity and impact. For example, on Facebook, conversations lose momentum in an hour give or take. The reason for this is because people consume until they create. As they create, expectations shift as characteristics of narcissm take over. What about Instagram? Allow me to share some revealing behavioral stats that will make you say, “wow.”

Statigram is a third-party tool that tracks activity Instagram. According to a fascinating article in pdn (Photo District News) written by Kathleen Hay, Statigram tracked the number of photos tagged ‘selfie,’ social slang for self portrait (yes, that’s a thing.) At 11 p.m. PST on December 28th 2012, the number of selfies numbered at a noteworthy 5.5 million. The egostyem wouldn’t be the same without the “me” in social media. At the same time, photos tagged ‘me’ completely eclipsed ‘selfie’ with a staggering 72.6 million self-portraits. Added together, you start to get the picture of just how prominent the egosystem is becoming.

In the article, Hay introduces us to Dr. Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology and author of Generation Me and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. The titles alone convey that connected consumerism is nothing like the conventional customers you once knew. To better understand the crux of selfies and the digital “me”, Twenge explains that at the core of narcissism is this invention or aspiration that people are better or more important than in reality. In the digital realm however, perception is reality.

Agree or disagree, this is your connected customer. And in many ways, you and those you know are among them. Knowing this, it’s time to get some answers.

First, how can you re-imagine your engagement strategies to align with and inspire the “me” in social media so that your brand, promise or vision becomes an active part of self-expression?

Second, how does or how can my brand evoke an experience that elicits self-expression?

Lastly, how will my brand become part of the egosystem and create a gravitational pull for others to orbit?

The answers just might change the way you see and engage your customers.

Superhero Image Credit: Shutterstock

BrianSolis

Brian Solis

Principal, Altimeter Group

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging media on business, marketing, publishing, and culture. His current book, Engage, is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to build and measure success in the social web.

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