Is This What the Collaborative Economy Looks Like?

The Collaborative Economy – a keynote at Social Shake-Up with Jeremiah Owyang – left an unexpected impression on me that’s had me thinking for weeks.

Jeremiah’s idea isn’t complicated: that people and businesses are getting together to fund, share, and promote new ways of doing things, and that’s changing the way businesses and industries work. The longer-term implications are less straightforward, though...

For example, how many of us could have predicted the rise of crowd-funding, where long lists of small donors fund and launch projects that might not get attention from mainstream banks and foundations? Or, who could have imagined that car manufacturers like Toyota and Mercedes would be looking into options that allow them to lease automobiles to groups of people who'd prefer to share, rather than own?

The kind of thinking that was once reserved for timeshares and small collective communities is now getting much bigger. The results could be significant for the future of finance, government, the world economy, and even small businesses like ours which trains our clients to do the fundamental aspects of our jobs.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know where these new ideas around the collaborative economy might take us in the future. But I did walk away from Jeremiah's keynote (and some subsequent thinking) with three quick takeaways:

1. Collaborative Thinking Is at the Heart of Social

Although people will argue that the Internet itself is a great equalizer, traditional businesses and media outlets still have a head start when it comes to reach, meaning they can somewhat influence messages, themes, and ideas.

In many ways, though, the rise of social media can be thought of as the true empowerment of the collaborative economy because it allows us to move towards the idea of turning to each other for answers. This leads to the sharing of ideas, reviews, and common causes that have the potential to flip traditional businesses on their heads. In other words, towards collaborative solutions that disrupt the traditional business model – much like this discussion which transpired in GooglePlus the other day.

2. The Collaborative Economy Is Not Going Away

There are a lot of things to like about the principles behind the collaborative economy. Because the answers are coming in real time from real people organically, they tend to be driven more by honesty and helpfulness than by a profit motive. Plus, for obvious reasons, sharing amongst ourselves can lead to less waste, less materialism, and more environmental good.

You don’t have to look to our better instincts to see why this concept is going to succeed. You just need to pay attention to the way corporations are starting to pay attention and get involved, just as they once did with social media. They sense a new idea might be catching on, and get that they need to modify their business models to keep up.

3. Collaborative Thinking Can Impact Marketing on the Web

I’m not sure yet how strongly the collaborative economy might affect my own industry, but I do know one thing: entrepreneurs, marketers, and employees from our clients' companies all do better when they are empowered to participate.

One of the fundamentals we stand by at Kayak is that we don’t do things for our clients that they can do for themselves. It’s a bit of a push-back from the days of a client’s contribution to their marketing efforts being limited to cold, hard cash. You could argue that it might reduce our billables to ask a client to edit their own typos or send out their own tweets, but truthfully, if we were to do every day-to-day activity for them, how’d they ever develop the skills – or habits – needed to prosper without us? By choice, we are in the business of helping our clients to get results, and nothing is more authentic and powerful than helping them to internally drive their own messaging and engage more organically.

I think this is probably true in a lot of fields. While you might enjoy the guidance – and safety net – of those more experienced, being able to bypass a vendor or do what you want ultimately makes your business faster, more agile, and more profitable. Whether you call it the collaborative economy or business DIY, it’s an idea that just works and is bound to keep growing, both as people realize they really can do it themselves, and others realize they have a responsibility to do so as well.

While Jeremiah probably didn't have my humble little Inbound marketing agency in mind when he presented at Social Media Today's Social Shake-Up event, you can bet that the ideas he expressed are certainly in alignment with the way this firm is thinking. On that note, please take a look out our Inbound marketing training program and Communication Briefing Tool today. I know both will help you improve your online marketing efforts.  

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