Why keeping it real for customers can be an epic fail.

By Tasman Richardson

I recently came across a short interview in which 4chan founder Chris Poole (a.k.a. Moot) explained why he felt that Facebook and Google+ were doing it wrong. For those that don’t know, 4chan is a message/image board which is best known for being a kind of meme petri dish and second home to the group known as Anonymous. Reminiscing about the good ol’ days of geekdom on the web, Moot said that the made up aliases or handles that people used were important facets of their personality. He felt that, by stripping away the smoke and mirrors, users were losing their carefully crafted alter egos.  For example, Facebook allows for a certain amount of nicknaming but doesn’t allow for multiple accounts by the same user. Google+ with its good intentions has eliminated nicknames all together in an attempt to prevent businesses from setting up potential spam accounts. With everyone being encouraged to be their “real” selves, there’s no way to preserve the complex online self.

Alter egos are more than secret identities. They’re crafted fantasies of what we would like to be. This is especially true of all the dabbling consumers love to do. Garage bands, basement film makers, moonlighting authors, budding chefs, amateur athletes… hold up, who you calling amateur? There’s nothing worse than loving something that’s not your job and having your friends and family shoot it down because… it’s not your job. You’re not a REAL musician, you’ll never be a tennis PRO. But it’s the fantasy that makes dabbling great, and when a company encourages that fantasy, it’s like they’re saying, “we believe in you” or to be more direct: “Just do it”.

By believing in consumer fantasy and alter ego, products encourage advanced usage and transform the user behaviour. Apple enabled music and video dabblers with tools like imovie but then went further by merging the professional software brand with the consumer entry level brand. This kind of brand amalgamation while hugely unpopular with the smaller pro audience, was an instant hit with couch directors and daydreamers, making it the most popular software download in the App Store. The same goes for sports, cooking, home hardware, personal grooming, etc. If you want to empower consumers, you’ve got to dare to dream with them. 

Links:

http://dailyinfographic.com/facebook-wall-of-shame-infographic

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/howlett/what-does-final-cut-pro-x-teach-enterprise-vendors/3225

Featured Image Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net