Forget social, it’s all about community now. Even new economics is going that way.

 

“From religion to politics, economics to marketing, ‘community’ is the key word that needs to be painted 6 foot tall on all walls of thought leaders.”

 

Community

Anyone reading this week’s Metro newspaper (p39 in Tuesday’s edition) may have seen that Comparethemarket.com has an initiative called the Great British Switch, designed to encourage us to switch over to new home insurers and save money via Comparethemarket.com. A smart little campaign, but the more interesting element is how they are looking at communities and especially neighbourhoods.

 

Their survey into how we behave within our neighbourhoods (real life communities) is fascinating and has created a drive to tap into the very essence of what makes us community minded. From this has come initiatives to encourage people to nominate those groups, charities and not for profit organisations that support communities, with a prize of £50,000. I know my local community have been banging out Tweets all day about it.

 

What CTM are doing is potentially bigger than their meerkat campaign. (A factual note here: meerkats live in strong communities looking out for each other.)

 

The power of connecting with communities

 

It’s easy to jump on the ‘social’ bandwagon and miss the importance of community which is not always the same. Social can be very self centred, especially as we have seen the growth of the “Selfie Generation” (those that exhibit self centred thinking with little actual consideration towards others), whereas community is about the masses thinking and working together.

 

I have for a long time preached the power of communities and that this is the area brands need to tap into and can be more successful at connecting with consumers in a real way if  (big ‘if’ here) they get it right. Unlike social media, it is harder to measure and doesn’t provide fantasy numbers to delude your boss, so not surprisingly requires a little more faith.

 

But well thought through, with a genuine belief in values, brands can effectively engage people and communities emotionally and win more loyalty than by almost any other marketing methodology, especially important as consumers are become less emotionally attached to brands and less loyal. If you have any doubt about the power of community, you may want to consider how successful religions have been in history across the globe – 70% of people still believe in a god, even if most Brits prefer to go to Tesco on a Sunday than to a church.

 

 

Communities and the Third Industrial Revolution.

 

Jeremy Rifkin, economist, idealist and advisor to governments, has been for a while preaching about a new economic future, one of greater sustainability and a move towards ‘communal collaboration’. Where zero marginal costs creates a new post capitalism economic model based on society not corporations. Where consumers become prosumers. You could see it as a new form of economic communism as everyone is equal and has an equal ability to capitalise on their skills, resources and even waste – one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure, as Freecycle, GumTree and eBay have demonstrated.

 

Rifkin believes that internet technology (especially the Internet of Things) and renewable energy are merging to create a powerful “Third Industrial Revolution” where, for example, millions of people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices and factories will be sharing or trading it with each other across an “energy internet,” in the same way we create and share information online.

 

Where people will be using technologies like 3D printers to micromanufacture goods (known as ‘additive manufacturing’).

 

The intelligent TIR infrastructure, the Internet of Things facilitates a new dimension in connectivity, allowing people, communities, governments, organisations and businesses to connect not just everyone but everything connected to it in a way yet to be imagined.

 

Sadly it also provides crooks, terrorists, spies, marketers and less moral people access too, taking porn and cyber crime to new levels.

 

The dream is that soon real time big data can be used by everyone to do things better, share more and get closer to zero marginal costs. It’s an attractive thought.

 

IT companies are already investing in global “neural network.” Cisco has the “Internet of Things,” IBM has “Smarter Planet,” Siemen’ has “Sustainable Cities” and GE has “Industrial Internet.”

 

In fact it’s now even being called the “Super Internet of Things”, there’s marketing hype for you!

 

Of course, connecting up all the points isn’t as simple or as desirable as some utopian dreamers believe (most of us have enough problems connecting up our phones to our computers). There are far more cautious players out there that would like to be less connected, banks especially. And as we develop more data paranoia, many consumers are disconnecting, especially from social media sites and opting out of databanks. The new social is privacy.

 

Rifkin’s main focus is on energy and sustainability, but what is central to his beliefs is it’s fueled by communities. No one would doubt Rifkin’s brilliance and wisdom, he’s an Einstein of economics, and even if some of his ideals are more idealistic than realistic only time will reveal who is right – the dreamers or the pragmatists.

 

There’s a lot we can learn about consumerism, marketing and good business from economics, if we dare to delve into their world. Having studied economics at school I still find it a fascinating area full of creativity and fresh thinking (I still read the Economist) and one that is shaping the real world we work in.

 

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LINKS

If you want to nominate a local organisation, NGO or charity that benefits community, go to: www.metro.co.uk/greatbritishswitch

 

The Third Industrial Revolution

http://www.thethirdindustrialrevolution.com

 

Consumers to Prosumers

http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2010/07/03/the-shift-from-consumers-to-prosumers/

 

The Economist

http://www.economist.com/node/21553017

 

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