Does Popularity Still Matter?

Today there are fewer blockbuster hits in the music industry, fewer movies that the whole world can’t wait to see and fewer books the whole world wants to read. At the same time, its never been a better time to be a movie fan, music lover or reader and consequently a filmmaker, musician or author. It seems that there is an audience for every type of creation as even indicated my the emails I get on this little blog here.

This got me thinking about the idea of popularity itself to see if “popularity” can still be qualified as a valid influencer in the connection economy.

In a less connected world, direct access to information was hard to come by. Most people had little evidence to make out whether or not something was worthwhile or not other than by the consensus of others.

Before user ratings, relevance matches and peer recommendations were commonplace the biggest reason to trust something was a claim that was widely known. Whether or not that claim was relevant to each one of us didn’t matter much, because most of our voices couldn’t be heard past the consensus anyway.

The Internet and connected world was supposed to change all of that, and if you look closely it already has. However, the people who got used to sending out the messages to sway the crowds may not want to see it that clearly yet.

How else do we explain MySpace being cluttered with banner ads? People clamoring for the number one spot on Google when that 1st spot means little to someone who is trying to get closer to what they “meant” by their query? 3D virtual billboards generating “awareness” metrics within video games?

If awareness clearly does not equal relevance why are advertisers still pushing the issue?

Because awareness, recall, retention was exactly how something became “popular” in a PRE-interconnected instantly conversational paradigm of civilization.

But what about voting? Isn’t popularity still relevant? Of course, but to whom? The mass market is dead and niche is king! Niche used be defined by geography, and today it maybe worldview and for every ideology there will be subscribers. The key difference is that those subscribers aren’t there because they heard it was the “thing to do”, they are there because you are enabling them to MAKE MEANING for who they think they are. That’s a HUGE difference!

That means the focus needs to be on RELEVANCE and NOT AWARENESS. If you “get” that, I have a few worthwhile things to offer. If you don’t, just wait for a few more disappointing box office returns, declining ROI on your SEO campaign and the garage sale on the leftover parts of your "marketing machine" when it finally breaks down!

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