Friday, February 24, 2012

How "frictionless" is killing its darlings

One of the next hypes in social media will be frictionless sharing (see, e.g., Polle de Maagt). Whereas traditional sharing is fun and social, but cumbersome or time-consuming, frictionless sharing implies automatic sharing activities. In fact, lots of social network users are already sharing frictionless. For instance, with an automated link between LinkedIn or Facebook and Twitter, or with an automated Spotify sharing on one's Facebook account. Marketers now seem to massively dig into the frictionless idea, presumably because the less cumbersome sharing could increase eWOM (electronic Word-Of-Mouth). Or maybe they are just creating future job opportunities, because frictionless sharing might, in the longer term, kill a lot of the appeal of social networks to marketers.

Of course, frictionless corresponds to the desire of users not wanting to fiddle around with all the manual sharing stuff. "How cool would it be if I would just have to ... and then automatically ...", is the user's motivation to welcome the idea of frictionless sharing. Sure enough there are of course privacy concerns as well. Both these points are, for instance, discussed in Erik Duval's blog.

From a marketing point of view, there are other effects to be aware of. The effects pertain to both the person sharing and this person's followers, the ones to which the information is shared. 

Person sharing
The more frictionless one is sharing experiences, information, etc., the less one is engaged in the sharing activity. Social networks seem to drive user's motivation precisely because they are engaging. Your motivation to further use the networks partly depends on the previously invested effort. Hence, the less effort it takes you to, for instance, check in with your foursquare the less you will be interested in foursquare itself. Of course, frictionless sharing could be the way to consolidate your audience once engagement is falling down, but for expanding networks it could well be detrimental.

Person one's sharing with
A first effect on the receiver's side, is a to be expected increase in the amount of shared stuff cluttering your timelines. Simple logic implies that the impact of each share will thus be lower.
A second effect, and a consequence of the previous, is that marketeers in frictionless sharing environment will be confronted with the exact same problems they are facing in traditional advertising: clutter. Nowadays individual consumers can still truly make a difference due to the eWOM power of shares but in a cluttered sharing environment the persuasive effect of shares will fall back to nearly zero.
A third effect is that the perceived genuiness of each share will decrease due to the decreased signaling value of each shared experience. This has already been clear on Twitter where accounts with automated tweets are sometimes criticized, probably also because such automated tweets dehumanize the account.

The result?
Frictionless sharing will have negative consequences, both from a user-centered interpersonal communication perspective as well as from a marketing perspective.

So, even though the frictionless sharing trend is only just beginning, I predict it won't be long before we will observe an unsharing trend. True frictionless sharing will only survive in very small social networks, where you'll only follow just a small group (a Google+ circle maybe?) of true friends and important relatives. Limiting your frictionless sharing to only a small circle of followers re-installs a flavor of genuineness. At the same time, your very close relatives and friends will care less about the automatic versus conscious nature of your sharing activity.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, great article!

    I totally agree with you that frictionless sharing causes a lot of clutter, and that lot's of it should be deleted straight away.

    But the conclusion that this has negative consequences is a bit too early for me. It does have negative consequences, but it has positives ones also. McKinsey (among others) has named this big pile of data/clutter/ resulting from (a.o.) frictionless sharing 'big data'. (I like to call it 'The internet of little things.)

    All this data needs sifting. We need to look for the little gems within that clutter. Newcomers to Foursquare all agree that it is of little added value to Tweet that you're currently At the toilet. It does add value to connect via Foursquare with fellow conference visitors whom you're otherwise perhaps more unlikely to meet.

    So I'm happy we're in this big pile of clutter. It needs a lot of sifting - which reflects the quest for useful connections or platforms we're currently in - but will lead to good things in the end. That might mean Pinterest, how cool it may be, will lose eventually and Farmwill will win (let's hope not).