Harnessing cults of personality

By now, you likely have heard about the couple who crashed last week’s White House state dinner. As pointed out by the WSJ, I agree that this isn’t an anomaly but the public surfacing of a cultural trend: everybody thinks of themselves a hidden star, just waiting for the right opportunity to shine.

The trend is unavoidable – unlike sporting events, where broadcasters avert their cameras when a fan jumps on the field and does something stupid, the media magnifies the actions of the attention-seekers. Moreover, in many ways reality TV acts as the same type of expressive outlet as social media.

As a business person, there’s lots to think about here from both external and internal perspectives.

  • Externally, the good news is that this trend drives consumers to talk online – a lot. This allows companies to gain market intelligence, if they know how to approach the listening landscape. The challenge, however, is distilling signal from noise and at an extreme, avoiding detractors that actually seek to do your brand harm.
  • Internally, we’ve seen cases of social media “rock stars” who help raise company profiles…in the echo chamber for sure, in the broader market perhaps. But it’s not just the ones who hold the titles that possess a cult of personality. ALL of your employees have some modicum of event crasher, waiting to happen. Traditional management means are for the most part effective in preventing ego anarchy.

The most interesting opportunity for businesses lies taking a positive approach and harnessing this trend to activate individuals. Which drives the question: how social is your business, really?


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