We are constantly involved in all kinds of digital interactions, and at the same time in debates about the value of digital interactions for us and for our business.
So where is the value? How to find it? what kind of value are we looking for? when are we prepared to accept something different than what we expect from each channel? When do we promote the difference to those interacting with us?
In the end, what is the underlying rule that drives value of digital interactions? If there would be such a thing.
1- ‘AUDIENCE’ as a concept
It is a “necessary evil” where, because of the volume of contacts, it becomes impossible to deal with each contact individually.
This inherited ‘massive broadcasting’ concept is harmful to a truly connected world, but not only in the obvious ways.
1.1- Limitation of status: when ‘audience’ cannot be more than that
The main problem with audience is being ‘locked’ as an audience forever.
When the ‘broadcaster’ closes all doors to a possible different interaction and contribution by the audience, it is creating a sense of ‘alienation’ of itself and its ‘audience.’
This ‘alienation’ will occur based primarily on quantitative obsession. It is a ‘safe distance’ between the ‘seller and the buyer’. All in name of ‘success.’ The ‘broadcaster’ obsessed in quantitative metrics to drive this unilateral success, and the audience obsessed in being part of those numbers (e.g. if a million people use it, so should I).
The VALUE here is very limited. With digital marketing STUCK in display ads, the concept of ‘audience’ will push back the evolution and greater value of digital interactions. If there is no exchange of ideas and information from the start, people will remain ‘victim’ to ‘non-optimal’ products and relationships.
The one-way channel, in an age where communication must be interactive, is pushing back the 2-way channel.
‘Audience’ as a concept will have its its use, don’t get me wrong, broadcast is what we are born from. But nevertheless it is limited in value. And will inevitably change into purely interactive mediums. Sooner than we think.
1.2- Robotic Interface: let Artificial Intelligence do the trick
Truth is: we still fear A.I. And we also don’t like it. [disclaimer: this is 2016; Earth]
Artificial Intelligence will be, however, the key to unlock the digital power into everyday life, but how will it happen? It will be the connection to all the data we are storing, and soon only A.I. will be able to give us the outcome we are craving for.
Now don’t be angry or dismiss the idea of A.I. being unpopular right now. Think about it. Do you like to speak with a robot about things that matter to you? Do you like to call someone and have the person’s robot speak to you? What about when a robot calls you and tries to start a conversation? NO ONE FULLY LIKES THEM. At least not yet. Not for things that matter.
If it is not performing a specific “non-intelligent” task faster than a Human, it will not have a place in our lives now. But it will, one day, and A.I. will be HUGE on bringing the potential of digital interactions (with humans) to its fully powered realisation. This is pretty obvious, I know – in a land of computers, A.I. will be king, it will have to rule. It is only a matter of time.
One “trick” for A.I. to gain space and conquer the hearts of humans is to first keep it simple, acceptable by humans in terms of delivering on a ‘non-intelligent’ task. Only then, slowly, position the robot as the qualified problem solver, who will be prepared enough to deal with anything.
The capacity to handle well ANY demand by the human is what will define acceptance of the robot. When the robot falls into a repetitive loop, the magic is gone.
Humans understand the ‘categorisation’ of the world, but part of ‘being human’ is to have the ability to break these limits, of categories, and others, when interacting. More on this ahead…
1.3- The Holy Grail of Truly Well Targeted Ads & Everything
This is beautiful in theory, and it is likely that markets will suffer once ‘they’ learn that users might not want any of it. They will have to change.
But now everyone is trying to do that, to give you what you want, and A.I. will help here too. A lot.
The value of digital interactions will culminate in systems robust enough to understand the timing and true needs of consumers.
It can be annoying, just as anything, but if you will have to see ads and be offered something anyway, you might as well be offered food that fits your taste when you are hungry, and called into surfing when the waves are good.
The VALUE here (at this moment in time) is to gather as much data as possible, perform all the business intelligence and analysis you can, and from there make things work. If you are diving into digital, make sure you can use the data from the interactions you generate.
So the value of digital interactions passes by the collection of data. This ‘underlying’ process, criticised by many, is key to the current and future value of digital. Embrace it.
2- PERSONAL vs. BUSINESS vs. PRIVATE
Humans are ‘categorising machines’, or ‘categorising animals’. We love to define things and even justify certain processes by the nature of a category (e.g. ‘this is business’). In reality there is no such thing, and the speed of digital interactions will help us understand that. The value is to ‘forget and re-learn’ what it means to have interactions. And digital is the medium where that new era will become possible. A ‘new awakening’ into what truly matters.
2.1- The Art of Finding What Matters
Any interaction is truly an open interaction in its potential. It is common to assume limitations for certain types of interactions simply for the sake of the final goal (e.g. I will not talk of my mother in a business meeting, it might not help the business).
The final goal is what matters most of the time. What do we want from that interaction? How fast do we want it to happen? Would we enjoy or need to perform it again? Would it be positive to be surprised by it? Do we care about who is interacting with us? Do we even think about what is the potential of each interaction we have?
Of course there is always ‘a catch’ to finding a goal. Humans are complex. We carry within ourselves a deep range of unconscious emotions that in most cases will make the task of finding any kind of clear goal a quasi-impossible feat.
This is where ART will come into play. Art is a process that touches so many unconscious points that in most cases it is very hard for us to clearly explain why we like or don’t like a certain piece of Art. Or ‘why it works’ for us.
The path of uncovering and generating the value of digital interactions will have to go just as deep. The experience throughout the process will be almost as strong as the goal, because it will build the goal. “The path is the destination”. Like when reading a good book, we don’t read it only because we wish to reach the end.
Being open to discovery is something that will be more present in digital interactions as we go. Today (2016) we tend to start every digital experience full of expectations, mostly negative. As digital and human become more integrated, expectations will be less important. The experience will build itself upon itself. As a user interacts with a system, the system understands the user and offers the optimal experience.
INTEGRATION is the keyword here, integration carries the value. It is the basis to make an interaction reach the best possible outcome.
So finding what matters will happen once we have the power to integrate everything.
2.2- Meeting people in the digital environment is weird, right?
Wrong. People may be weird, but meeting them within a digital ambient is not.
The Internet will open for people to present themselves in any way they like (Business & Personal), and that will cause an impression that may differ from what the person is offline. This is as straight forward as it can be, though. And the fool is who expects that this will not happen.
Online, via digital, a new persona is formed, and it is only natural that it does. We have personas for many aspects of our lives (again, categories), and we don’t mind it. So why care so much about online? do we care about wearing a suit to a wedding?
If you meet a business contact in a conference, that will be a persona. If you meet that contact in Linkedin, that is another persona.
The VALUE is precisely there, on having the option of creating such personas. This does not mean “fooling the world.” But instead, finding ways of presenting oneself to fit the best possible role on any given interaction. Making the best happen.
ONLINE DATING, which is a universe under severe debate, is criticised because of fake personas. Truth is digital is only the first point of contact. The relationship will evolve naturally much beyond that. Plus, it has promoted many connections between people that would never meet otherwise. Another VALUE of meeting people online.
2.3- Privacy – OMG!
It is again, about integration. Once your information is available to a certain system, the system will be able to deliver what you need in a much better way. Think of health, transportation, important dates, important people, important products (yes, we get commercial there).
But if we look at this on a ‘human-to-human’ perspective, then the risk of a ‘stalker’ is there. However, it is likely that the ‘stalker’ itself will be ‘in the mix,’ and have its data online too. So it will come down to the capacity of the law to be enforced across digital systems.
This debate is ‘ginormous’, not to end here. What matters is to understand that privacy is subjective when searching for value of digital interactions. It is selective, where one feels the limit, another doesn’t. And the value is to have as much of it in the hands of the user as the user wants.
In many cases this is actually there already. No one is told to have a Facebook or Linkedin profile. People do it because they want. “But how will I speak to my loved ones?” “How will I find my next job?” So there we go, it is an exchange, just as everything in this life.
So the VALUE of digital interactions is present on what you make out of it, not on what you hold back which will jeopardise your goals. It is all up to you. Value is found from an exchange.
3- Final Thoughts on the Value of Digital Interactions
The concept of VALUE in itself refers to “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” (Google)
To make it easy to find how valuable something is to you, you can always divide things into Quantitative and Qualitative, and pick as much of each as you need to define the final ‘success rate’ of what you are part of.
Value is always subjective unless proven, so proving the value of digital interactions will be in the hands of those involved. When a company states that “business has grown after understanding what our customers want and don’t want”, it is proving that by using a qualitative approach the company generated sustainable quantitative growth.
A business looking only for money will not give away more than products and will not care what people think as long as they buy. These businesses will die or will just have to constantly change after what the ‘truly attuned’ businesses are doing. A person trying to fake it will hide behind personas, trying to fool a world that will see right through them.
So above all that is ‘dark and tricky’, digital will enhance the experience of humans with humans and with the world. And most interactions of our lives, wether we like it or not, will be digital.
Being conscious about what is going on, and finding the good from the bad and the weird, will help us stay on top of the game and support whatever comes to add value into our lives.
Only those who see and understand the value, or the different values of digital interactions, will survive and enjoy the digital revolution.