Digital technology is a great way of capturing and sharing the important moments in life – videos of baby’s first steps, pictures of the first day in school, a travel blog, … and QR codes in gravestones. Earlier this month, BBC news reported that a Danish gravestone manufacturer started selling plates with a QR code linking up to information content about the deceased, including audio and video. This is not the first use of QR codes in cemeteries, as I discussed in this post.
What I found interesting in this particular article was that the service is touted to be a great way to tell the person’s story and preserve local history. For instance, the company’s director is quoted as saying: ‘It’s a good way to tell the story of a person. And we all have a story.’ But… see… We don’t have a story. We have several.
Story, Stories and Social Media
This news article reminded me of a very interesting paper presented at the Academy of Marketing conference in July 2012, by Robin Croft (@robinjazz). The paper is available here and reflected on the author’s experience of using various web 2.0 platforms, including Myspace, Bebo, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing, Plaxo, Flickr and Youtube, among others.
Robin defended that users of web 2.0 platforms used those tools to tell a story. The story told in each of these platforms varied greatly, partly because of the technical characteristics of the platform and partly because of usage protocols (the netiquette). Most importantly, though, the different stories reflected the nature of the connections in those platforms – e.g., personal vs. professional contacts. The author suggested that users ‘tried to adapt (their) personal ‘brand’ through occasional updates such as describing the projects we were working on’. Moreover, he noticed that it took time to find one’s voice in each medium, distinguishing between having an audience and engaging with it.
What I found most interesting about Robin’s paper was the proposition that, in social media, there is no distinction between the person sharing the content and the audience. As he wrote: ‘the distinction between audience and artist is largely irrelevant: the conversations are co-created, be they mediated by jokes, pictures or general chitchat’.
The author concluded that ‘the audience controls the medium, and invites products, services and brands to contribute on his or her terms’.
Now, I am at a crossroad. On the one hand, I expect brands to be present on social media and interact on users’ terms. On the other hand, I also expect brands to have a consistent presence.
Any thoughts on how to reconcile these two different needs?