Scarlett of Suburbia

Field Notes from The Motherhood


January 2009

Why Do You Work?

Most of us would say money. And yet money alone does not motivate better work or increase job satisfaction. Do we work for money because there is an underlying premise that people don’t like to work and must be bribed to do it?

That may have been true for the industrial revolution, but a key difference between the industrial economy and the digital economy is that the role of the worker has shifted from brawn to brain. Knowledge is now a key differentiator, so is it also time to revisit this most fundamental value equation?

A year ago, Seth Godin wrote about the passionate worker:

A new class of jobs (and workers) is creating a different sort of worker, though. This is the person who works out of passion and curiosity, not fear.  The passionate worker doesn’t show up because she’s afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it’s a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation… because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour.

A recent Businessweek article, “Will Work for Praise” describes how web entrepreneurs are making money through armies of volunteers willing to work for free to build their own personal brands. In a web 2.0 world, there is an implicit symbiotic relationship in place around resource exchange: entrepreneur(s) with money provide(s) platform and technology, volunteers with time provide relevant content to build a personal brand and help others.

Adam Smith, who is widely regarded as the father of modern economics, lived and wrote during a similarly challenging transition from an agrarian to industrial society. Before he published The Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote a classic treatment of ethics that laid the foundation for his free-enterprise classic. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith proposed that beyond economic pursuits, there are moral pre-requisites to capitalism. Human nature isn’t just about self-interest but it also includes important motivators: sympathy, empathy, friendship, love and the desire for social approval.

The Wealth of Nations draws on situations where man’s morality is likely to play a smaller role — such as the laborer involved in pin-making — whereas the Theory of Moral Sentiments focuses on situations where man’s morality is likely to play a dominant role among more personal exchanges.

If people want to work and are willing to do it for free or some other value exchange in the digital economy, should businesses adapt to this new sensibility?

This entry was originally written by Lori Laurent Smith (moi), edited by Marta Strickland and posted on Threeminds.


Content Strategy for the Social and Semantic Web

Remember the party game “Telephone”, where a simple phrase is whispered from ear to ear around a circle of friends? The payoff is when the final phrase is uttered out loud by the last person and it is completely transformed.

Content flows online the same way.

No longer constrained to the artificial restrictions of a web site, or even the browser (mobile), content is ‘the story’ that is being passed from blog post to comment to tweet. Content takes on a new reality from its passage across the web. From a marketing and brand perspective, the challenge for content strategy in a social and semantic world (aka web 3.0) is to ensure the key messaging content is still accurate and complete as it evolves.

Before going much further, let me clarify what content strategy means for the social and semantic web. Content strategy is a 40,000 foot strategic overview of content, aligning content, its purpose, creation, publication, and use with the overall business strategy and marketing objectives of an enterprise. Developing a content strategy means it must be resilient against the web reality that the content will be adopted, mixed, mashed and recreated in a post-modern lovefest by enthusiasts and enemies, influencers and newbies. Additionally, there is the hyper-connectivity of users plus the immediacy and velocity of conversation so:

a. Inconsistencies or gaps between the message and the supporting content, or user experience will be called out
b. Gaps filled by users aggregating and adding to existing content
c. Online perceptions of brands, products, or services are created that are a new reality from the user’s perspective

This is complicated by the increasingly interactive nature of the web making not only the content but where, when and how its accessed, organized and read, viewed or listened to, important elements to consider.

To simplify this approach, here are the key questions marketers, strategists, planners and the like may find useful when developing a comprehensive content strategy:

  1. Why communicate at all? What is the risk:reward?
  2. What are the goals and objectives of:
    1. The enterprise, how can the content strategy help achieve them?
    2. For the content strategy itself?
  3. What does real success for each of the above look like?
  4. How is success measured?
  5. What content already exists?
    • Where are there gaps
    • What content must be created?
    • Will fans create it?
  6. What are the desired outcomes of creating and distributing this content?
  7. Who are the uber-influencers to carry and serve the content?
    • Where are they?
    • How best to connect them with content?

These musings are most definitely a work-in-progress. What else would you add to consider when developing a content strategy for the internet as it continues to evolve beyond the browser?

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