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The trouble with collaborative consumption is…


Collaborative Consumption

Our intrepid Marketing Manager, Bek, was invited to speak at the August gathering of Social Media Women down at the amazing Chapel Bar at Bar 100 by the Rocks. You can read the first half of her run down on eXpertLocal at Social Media Women here.
In the second half of the discussion at Social Media Women, Bek tackled collaborative consumption and social media, as well as the current barriers to consumer adoption of collaborative consumption ideas.
Why are collaborative consumption and social media suited?
Both collaborative consumption and social media share that common underpinning of requiring community conversation to make them work. When someone produces content on the internet, whether it’s a blog, a fan page on Facebook or even tweets a joke, it needs to move beyond simply being content for contents sake and garner the interest, approval and interaction of other people. For it really to be social media, it needs to move from broadcast to inviting social interaction.
The same is true of collaborative consumption. You need to bring a minimum of two people together on a platform in order for it to work. One person has the idea; the other person needs to participate. You can’t have one without the other; otherwise it’s simply an idea with no execution.
That is part of the biggest challenge in either case because getting one person to act is hard enough, let alone two. Both social media and collaborative consumption will have an investment of time, labour and ideas that is met with silence. It’s working out how to turn that silence to conversation and then into action that is the key.
Social media and collaborative consumption face the same challenges
Social media without likes, shares, comments, follows, fans and so on isn’t really social media. However as anyone who’s ever started a blog or had an idea for a page would know you will spend a lot of time in the first instance putting content out onto the internet with little or no interaction. Or you’ll put a heap of stuff out there and find people respond to it weeks and months later.
Collaborative consumption is a beautiful theory. The idea that we’ll all come together to share an amazing time over a meal, through a drill, via a walk around the beach or through grabbing a lift with someone else is exquisite. It taps into that feeling that we love being a part of a community. Collaborative consumption relies on the idea that we are these wonderful caring, sharing creatures who want to help people, the planet and our community to connect and create a shared bond- if only someone was there to give us a little push in the right direction.
But the issue is more complex than that. We’re hard wired to think that because we align our values with something, because we share a piece of information or say we’re a part of something that it’s actually true. But the truth is just like pinning a photo of a handbag to your Pinterest board that you never intend to buy is nothing more than wishful thinking, saying you are keen on sharing with other people and then not taking the opportunity to move that statement into action means the theory of collaborative consumption remains, but the required usage simply isn’t there.
Humans are irrational, full of fear, a little bit crazy, egocentric, loving, loopy, and lazy and a whole lot of other things that don’t always lend themselves well to theoretical concepts.
Thankfully, if enough people help us get used to a concept or approve of our interaction with an idea, we will adopt it into our way of life if we truly do believe in it. However, this is a process that takes time, education, gentle prodding and a lot of coaxing.
Changing our attitudes is the only way either thing works
Talking about yourself on your blog, Twitter, Facebook or whatever chosen social media channel you use is not “social” media, its media creation. There’s a fine line between telling everyone everything all the time and educating people to your thoughts- and that line is firmly drawn at the difference between one sided broadcasting and being able to create connection. You want social media, you have to make room for participation.
With collaborative consumption, if you want people to collaborate and share, they need to feel in charge. Participants need to feel as though you have their back. And they need to be given the information they can use to meet other people’s objections, justify their own time and energy, and feel like they are doing something for themselves as part of that process. And that sense of doing it for themselves has to come from more than “aren’t you lovely being a part of this wonderful movement and helping the environment and community”.
Liking something doesn’t mean it works
We already know through studies about the green food and products movement that people support it in the language they use more than they do or are able with their wallet. Same with buying local or supporting Australian made things.
Things that appeal to us on a social responsibility level that we wear as badges of honour may not get the physical action they need to be practical or even sustainable. Like 6 out of 10 people saying they like the ABC, but TV ratings consistently demonstrating its more like 4 out of 10 that will tune in. Or people sharing something on social media because they believe in a cause and yet not taking the next step to sign their name to a petition to make the change or financially support the bodies that are on the ground doing the work.
In that respect, the love of the idea of collaborative consumption far outstrips usage of it on a practical level.
It’s all about perspective
People, Australians, are very cynical. They are worried about breakages and thefts in item, house or car sharing, axe murderers running tours or providing lifts. Being ripped off, bamboozled or put in a bad situation are the common objections people put up when you suggest the idea of collaborative consumption.
The ‘fear of the bad man’ is the same problem eBay or Gumtree faced. Actually, it’s the same problem any business should face because you don’t know if the bus driver will end up being an axe murder or the dude who makes your lunchtime sandwich is on the level. You don’t know if that tenant you get for your rental will pay on time or look after your place. You don’t know if that tour guide you’re following on holidays really knows what they are doing or is ripping you off.
Yet we trust anyway. We’ve been conditioned to trust a place because they have a uniform, a shop and a sign on the door. These are the things collaborative consumption lacks.
This lack of formalised business is consumer freedom
If anything, collaborative consumption removes the layers we don’t need. By dealing with a person and renting that drill or hiring that tour directly, you aren’t dealing with a company and therefore aren’t paying their rent, for their marketing team or their overheads. You aren’t getting the watered down committee version of an experience designed by 7 people instead of the one person who really does know what they are on about. And you aren’t paying a margin to shareholders, a balance sheet or for a projected annual profit. There aren’t several layers of businesses all trying to get their margin viewing the exercise from a perspective of pure profitability.
We’ve been conditioned to think dealing with a company that usually doesn’t give a damn about us is safer than dealing with one person who is genuinely interested in sharing, helping and being connected to another human being. These same companies that encourage us to buy things we don’t need, spend money through credit we don’t have and isolate ourselves from each other in competitions to outdo the neighbours, the guy at work or whoever we think we’re in competition with.
The trouble with collaborative consumption is…
The concept is really new and we aren’t sure how to deal with it properly. It asks us on some level to change the way we think about ownership, how we’re meant to relate to other human beings and give up a lot of things that have kept us quite comfortable for a while.
It asks us to trust people. To move away from governments and corporations as big bodies in the sky who must be accountable for everything they do (and generally aren’t), who represent our best interests (and generally don’t), and stop viewing other people as a potential threat, or an idiot, or a scammer or whatever.
Collaborative consumption doesn’t want to rank you by the things you own or the expensive things you do. And for a lot of us, this is a completely alien concept.
For collaborative consumption (or the sharing economy as it is otherwise known) to work, we need to have a little more faith in our fellow human beings. We need to move away from shooting down an idea after 5 minutes and try it out, see if it works for ourselves.
And sometimes I wonder if we’re brave enough to do that.
I certainly hope so.

eXpertLocal at Social Media Women

Social Media Women

Our Marketing Manager Bek was asked to speak at the August Social Media Women gathering.
While Open Shed’s amazing co-founder Lisa Fox took her years of experience with collaborative consumption and distilled the scene before launching into how Open Shed works for people, Bek focussed on the parallel between social media and collaborative consumption.
This is based on Bek’s notes (so may be a little more details than her talk), but you’ll get the idea!
This is the first half of the proceedings where Bek went through the finer points on eXpertLocal.
Why is there a space for eXpertLocal?
eXpertLocal has a space in the market through its ability to help individuals and businesses make sideline projects and efforts more effective. By bringing people together to share their version of a city or experience, and placing a platform behind it so people can easily find everything in one place, you create the ability for people to experiment with offering things they think may work without making a massive investment. Businesses and individuals can take their ideas for events, tours or experiences from the “will this work?” to practical trial stage via the platform.
In my previous job, I spent time flying in and out of different cities, often spending over night in places I didn’t know. After a while, it becomes a bit of a drag to sit in the hotel night after night, or to eat by yourself in a restaurant, or try and find things to do in a city going on the ads in the street press or local paper. There were so many times where I would have simply loved to go see a band or find a small bar that suited my mood. Or found something to eat that wasn’t at the hotel but wasn’t very pricey- or simply not eat alone. Or even take a walk in the entertainment district without looking or feeling like a tourist, or vulnerable and without someone to share it with.
That’s why something like eXpertLocal makes sense because I have been that person who was new, stuck for something to do, and tired of my own company in a different city.
eXpertLocal is not simply about tourism
Think about how big a city the size of Sydney is and how many things are on offer at any given time. Think about too, how nice it would be to catch a wave with someone who’s right into their surfing and who’ll show you the local side. Or to find that off the beaten track cafe that won’t get a write up in the paper that all the locals love.
eXpertLocal gives people the ability to try something different in terms of venue, experience or food without leaving the city or area you know, or paying top dollar for it. It gives you the chance to fall in love with your own city all over again.
And you get that added bonus of hearing the story behind why someone else goes back to that surf break, chooses that cafe or enjoys that experience.
Why does Sydney need eXpertLocal?
As I came here tonight from Bronte on the bus, I went past so many empty shops with for sale or for lease signs on Oxford street and in the city, it was heartbreaking. You see something like that and start wondering “what if that cafe could have offered a cooking class on Monday nights to offset the slow part of the week?” or “would things be different if someone ran a shopping tour?”
My partner has been an active musician in the Sydney live music scene since the mid 90′s. While he and the bands he plays in and on the bill with are of high quality, there is the sad fact people want the live music scene more in theory than they are willing to participate. But the barriers to taking a punt on a venue or a band are more about “how will I know I will have a good time?” or “How do I know the bands are any good or something I’d like?” – These are questions other music lovers could easily answer. They could use their knowledge of the local scene to inspire others to take that leap.
The other reason is even I, who regularly catches buses and admires the city in which I live, had no idea this very venue existed. That it was this beautiful. And seeing the bridge at night is something I often don’t seek out, yet it takes my breath away each time I see it. So I need someone to provide me an excuse to see that bridge more often!
Business needs eXpertLocal too
Being the same old business simply doesn’t cut it anymore with so much competition, online and off. But what if you could find something that people talked about that made you unique? What if instead of simply serving customers your wares you gave them the chance to find out how they were made or meet the staff or participate in some way?
It’s these moments, whether they are community or commercially based ventures that create something your customers will remember and walk away talking about.
Not only that but instead of investing a lot of effort behind self promotion, marketing, adding new features to your existing website or taking time out from other activities to take bookings on the phone or via email, eXpertLocal is already set up to book that event for you- plus promote it through our network of fans and followers. And we’re happy to give you marketing advice and assistance because the more successful your booking with us, the more likely you are to use eXpertLocal again.
eXpertLocal is personal recommendation in action
We’ve all got that friend who knows when all the sales are on, where to find the best Sunday roast at a pub, the best plays to see in a season or takes those photos of the most amazing views and moments- so why not use that knowledge to its best advantage? But it’s more than sharing these passions and that knowledge, too.
When we started the eXpertLocal journey, we knew that there were people that were doing it a little tougher than others for a whole variety of reasons. From international students struggling with a new culture to people living in social housing trying to figure out how they could stretch their dollars. To community groups offering services to people but without even a basic budget to market what they offered. And small businesses sitting precariously on a lot of outgoings, hoping that the trade would become more consist than a booked out Saturday morning and no traffic any other time.
These groups plus people wanting to test the waters for their new idea of walking tours, bar crawls, suburb discovery or simply to meet like minded people who shared the same interests without it being a high pressure situation all have a need for eXpertLocal.
We just need to find inspire and help them to succeed.

Rebekah’s talk continues in the next blog “The trouble with collaborative consumption is…”
To join Social Media Women, follow the official Social Media Women blog.
To find out more about eXpertLocal, or to workshop your idea for a tour with Bek, email


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