Pop Culture Trend: Power to the People
Trend Tags: Twitter, YouTube, Empower, Choice, Life-Streaming, Blog
By Tara Lane, Staff Writer
You’ve probably heard the news that American Idol garners more votes than the presidential election. While there are some factors to consider in this situation – age, number of times to vote, etc. – there’s something to be said about the power of choice given to audiences.
Just a few decades ago, audience participation may have been considered yelling out to the TV, with no opportunity to give feedback or have any control. With the advent of things like reality TV competitions, as well as the boom in social media use over the past few years, the power of the audience has been broadened, and is changing the landscape of marketing and business. Audiences are now actively engaged and connected to their favorite brands, and feel empowered to make a difference.
Life-Streaming – Using platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, or a blog, a single user can market themselves to be somewhat of a social media star and a recognizable name or face to thousands of strangers they consider to be friends. For example, blogger Heather Armstrong, known better as Dooce, is the owner of the number one personal blog on the Internet. She’s ranked 26th on Forbes’ list of the most influential women in media.
The reason for this popularity isn’t about fame or money, though. It’s because they’re normal, regular people who can relate to their audience of other normal, regular users who share similar interests and goals.
Users are drawn to these platforms because it allows an outlet that can’t be provided elsewhere. Some may use it for support, to give or receive advice, or to produce creative content they want to share with others. Anyone searching for a way to express themselves – or to join in on the fun of someone else doing the same – can find an audience somewhere on the Internet.
Power to Choose – Giving power to the people allows a brand to extend beyond its typical space and employ new tactics to connect customers and audiences together for a cause. Whether it’s leveraging their power to choose the next big star, or logging on to help give money to a good cause, audiences now have much more sway and influence over pop-culture and media, using only the Internet or the telephone.
Target recently gave users the opportunity to vote on how they thought the company’s annual charity money should be dispersed, and received more than 250,000 votes on Facebook alone. Shows like American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, and So You Think You Can Dance allow viewers to choose who should win their respective competitions, drawing in huge audiences and responses each time.
- 19 percent of online video viewers express a preference for content “produced by amateurs.”
- The most popular made-for-web series’ are on YouTube, made by amateurs, and garner tens of millions of views each month.
- More than 180 million people worldwide have started a blog, 26.4 million are in the United States.
- Half of the Web sites on the Internet have been developed by “professional amateurs,” using open-source software.
- In 2004, more people voted for the winner of American Idol than voted for president.
The way audiences consume media has changed significantly, and how companies interact with their customers, too. The FTC recently cracked down on bloggers who do not disclose relationships with companies for reviews or endorsements in order to promote open communication and honesty among brands and users. Amateurs hold a lot of sway over their own audiences, and getting a product into their hands can be more effective than a typical advertisement.
People are now empowered by the network economy and the connections they can make through their networks. Everyone is a publisher, free to produce their own content without needing complex knowledge of information systems and HTML. Everyone has a voice, and more and more people are looking to share that voice with others.
This has led to a growth in the Pro-Am movement, encouraging participatory and active involvement, especially within the realm of digital and social media. Not only can these professional amateurs learn and hone their skills in an entirely new way, they can become a part of a community of others interested in the same thing.
Customers are looking to do something bigger than themselves, and companies are heeding the call.
- Mountain Dew uses crowdsourcing to let customers choose the newest flavor.
- Starbucks launched MyStarbucksIdea, allowing customers to pitch ideas for new products, and help shape the future of the company.
- Kettle Foods let customers choose wacky flavors for their chips, and saw a rise in overall sales.
These audiences recognize how they can help, and are searching for ways to do their part. Companies that enable them to do this, who listen to customers and allow them to have a voice, are succeeding in their efforts.
Read all of the 2009 Pop Culture Trends
Image by Michael Lorenzo from Stock.Xchng