I wrote the other week about the two-way relationship between new technology and changes to people’s behaviour.
Sometimes it can be hard to unpick and identify the real human motivations behind what’s happening. And, sometimes, as with a couple of things I’ve seen recently, it’s easier to spot the real-world response to new digital habits.
Last week I read news of an Instagram hotel. It offers free accommodation to people with more than a thousand Instagram followers. This followed the announcement of a similar initiative trying to appeal to Twitter users.
This is an explicit acknowledgement of what most brands’ social media strategy is predicated on: that influence is currency.
Except that where normally a brand might attempt to earn recommendation through what it invests in, here a business wants simply to buy the influence that others have earned.
Klout For Business has a similar ambition, of course. Its algorithm can be a useful asset to businesses that want to identify – and treat accordingly – those who might be more supposedly ‘valuable’ customers, with value determined by the strength of their influence.
I’m still undecided as to whether this trend heralds a newly democratic approach to customer service or whether it’s simply a new kind of elitism. Imagine an airline upgrades a passenger according to their influence rather than their income – does that a premium service more or less accessible?
Either way, these are new user experiences caused by new online activites.
The other example that caught my eye this week was in response to teen behaviour on Snapchat.
Itself a response to the flaws teenagers have found with the Facebook experience, this is a platform that allows users to exert more control over how they share what they want to share.
Except that the ability to set the duration for which a user’s image can be seen is already being circumvented by recipients’ ability to amend their phone’s screen capture settings.
Images are shared, re-posted and permanently available – precisely the opposite of what the user intended. And, of course, new apps are being produced that explicitly reflect this behaviour.
Unlike the Instagram hotel, there’s no illusion of consumer control here – quite the opposite. But in each case this is a new consumer experience defined by (also new) peer-to-peer tools.
Both Instagram and Snapchat started out as intimate, private platforms. Their influence is turning out to be anything but.