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Marketing 360® Blog

Marketing in the Connection Economy

connection economy There are two words that are starting to dominate the conversation about internet marketing and even broader economic trends:

Connection and Sharing.

The terms have almost the same implications.

Connection economy is used by marketing guru Seth Godin.  It’s one of his most important underlying principles:

Joe Gebbia of Airbnb makes similar points as he talks about the sharing economy:

These two marketing influencers are talking about the same principle:  the extraordinary power of the internet to facilitate connections, allow for shared information, and – most importantly – create new ways to develop trust.

This is arguably the most important concept to understand in digital marketing today.  Connection is the internet.  Sharing is what people do with it.

Seth points out the four pillars of the connection economy:

  • coordination
  • trust
  • permission
  • exchange of ideas

In essence, the internet altered how human beings work within these four pillars.  The result are transforming the business world.  Collaborative consumption is not just a theory.  It’s an emerging model that already has striking success stories.

Of those, Gebbia’s Airbnb is one of the most instructive.  Airbnb is a digital business model exemplar.  It could not exist with out the internet and the four pillars of the connection economy.

Online coordination makes the service possible.  People are able to list and promote rooms in their homes to rent out to travelers.  The website allows for the connection and exchange of information, including personal and accommodation reviews.  It introduces people to one another, handles logistics, and serves as a payment platform.

There is no solicitation.  Everything is permission based with people who are eager to participate.  If you have a room to offer, this gives you a place to do it.  You give people permission to look into – and come into – your home itself.  There is an open generosity here that belies the idea of “selling”.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this sharing platform is how it develops trust across digital channels.  Sharing your home – your most personal spaces – with complete strangers only happens because a new paradigm of trust is developing in the sharing economy.

Joe talks about how they’ve overcome the “stranger danger” instinct instilled in many of us from a young age.  Today, people share intimate details about their personalities online, and they allow others to talk about them on a personal level that’s never been possible before.  The exchange of ideas is so powerful that we develop enough trust to allow a strangers to share our homes.

Increasingly, the other three pillars are supported by the underlying factor of trust.  When trust is engendered, the connection initiates and flourishes.

Businesses like Airbnb, Uber, dating websites, and much of social media are part of this paradigm shift and the emerging potential of the digital economy.  It was one thing when the internet allowed you get a shirt at cheaper price than the corner store, or when it made print newspapers obsolete.  The sharing economy, built on newly created, trusted connections, takes our generosity and art to a different level.

Airbnb is not just a way for people to turn an empty room into a financial asset.  When the guest arrives, a new relationship is created.  You arrive in a foreign land and are connected with a local who can show you how people in her part of the world live.

This is a major shift from staying in a tourist resort, where the local you get to know the best is the bartender.  Your host offers remarkable generosity by letting you into their world.  Life transcends into art as you travel, learn, and grow in an authentic cultural experience.

The sharing economy is not just technology altering a transaction or information feed.  It creates a transformative human experience with broad cultural implications.

These connections are the yet barely tapped potential of internet marketing.  This economy is where the major business opportunities of the next several decades will be.  At the same time, traditional advertising methods of brand building struggle.  Because brands no longer control the connections – or the conversation.

The internet allows us to give more of ourselves and receive more of others.  It creates connections of trust not possible until now.

And it allows us to profit from the commerce these connection make.

But you won’t profit without trust.  As Seth says, nobody wants to connect with someone who’s selfish.  No one wants to share with a person who’s always going to take.

The connection economy tantalizes with a vision of utopia, where sharing and trust also create economic opportunity.

But this is more than just idealism.  The tools exist to make these business opportunities a reality.  Connections, after all, build. The sharing economy promises a future worth building towards.