Assigning Value to the Message & Messenger Both Offline and Online

Posted on September 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

I have been blogging for well over a year now and during that time I have revealed very little about myself personally.  I have recently opened up a little about my family life because most of my daily experiences (my son being labelled an “adult” at Cici’s Pizza or my pool rennovation project) spark a thought or an idea about my own ecommerce business.  As I have opened up a little in my writing, to reveal some personal information, many people reading my blog have responded very favorably. 

And the fact that people have responded favorably to what I write, without really knowing anything about me personally, has gotten me to think…. what do we really know about people online?  And, more importantly, how do we process what we know about people or businesses online to decide whether what they have to say has value or not?

Kids learn how to interact socially at a young age and children learn quickly about social norms during their interactions with their peers.  Kids notice right away when another child is a different race or when another kid behaves very differently from the group.  

In the “real” world, offline, when we meet someone for the first time we have the benefit of seeing them, hearing them, and watching them.  And we gather a great deal of information about someone very quickly based on how they look, how they speak, and what they do.  Sometimes we unfortunately have biases in our opinions about others and we cannot see past the way someone looks to hear what they have to say, for example.  Because of our biases we may miss out on learning something valuable or lose out on what could have been a great friendship. 

So, then, how do we make decisions online about “who to follow on Twitter” or “who to add to our Facebook page as a friend”?  It’s true that sometimes we meet people offline and then discover they are online, too, and so we form an online friendship with someone we met offline.  But, what if all you know about a person online is what they tell you?  And what if they share very little information about themselves with you?   How then do you determine whether you “like” the person or whether what they say has “value”?

Back to my original thought.  I have been blogging for about a year and a half.  I call myself a “hobby blogger” because I blog for my own personal recreation.  The fact that other people read my blog is just a really nice bonus; it doesn’t bring me sales or enrich me financially.  I have received many wonderful comments on my blog, some really heartfelt emails, and some Twitter DMs where people have taken the time to tell me how much they enjoy my blog. 

 So, to some people my blog has value.  And they have determined that what I have to say has value to them despite them not knowing lots of personal information about me.  A question I have is: Would those people assign the same “value” to my blog posts if they knew something more about me?  Would knowing the race or the gender of the author beforehand influence someone’s assessment of any particular blog post so that it is perceived to be better… or worse … than it actually is? 

Some of my blog posts have been talked about elsewhere.  Other bloggers have, at times, referenced my posts and sometimes discussions occur on forums about what I have written.  During the past year and a half, exactly one other blogger has contacted me and asked my gender.  And a few other people I have corresponded with have seen me sign my email with my real first name so, with that information, they can determine my gender.

So, if only one person has asked my gender does that mean that my gender is irrelevant to the others who didn’t ask?  Or do people just “assume” they know my gender because of the value they themselves attach to what I have written?  For example: Only a man could have written such detailed posts.  Or another example: Only a woman would continually nag about the same darn thing in every post.

I guess it’s something to think about.  And the social media implications for individuals and  ecommerce are enormous.  I’ve been told that some men, who are interested in current events, will watch a certain news channel when they are most interested in focusing on the message (the news) and that, other times, they will watch a different channel when they are interested in the message but also want to be entertained by the messenger as well  (ie the hot babe newscasters is what they call them).

I think for most people, both offline and online, it is the same.   Sometimes we like the messenger, sometimes we are interested in the message, and sometimes we want to enjoy and appreciate both.  I think we see an example on Twitter.  Most people have probably ReTweeted (RT) something that they didn’t think was the most interesting tweet but they did so simply because they like the messenger (the person who made the original Twitter comment).  And I would bet some people read an interesting Tweet but don’t Retweet it because they disagree with that person’s political views or just don’t care for their previous comments.  In that case, they place a high value on the message but a low value on the messenger.

As a society, we individually place a certain value on the message and a certain value on the messenger.  And when there is the right value combination of the messenger with the message, that synergy can create very powerful, often emotional, responses.  In ecommerce, of course the response we want from people is for them to buy from us.  In politics, the response a candidate hopes for is that you will vote for him or her.  Again, it all comes back to packaging the correct message with the right messenger if you are asking someone to “take action” like purhase an item or go vote for a candidate.

Now, I was raised in the South  and was taught to avoid getting involved with topics of conversation in public that are controversial so I have mentionned as much as politics (voting for a candiate) as I dare in this post.  And I definitely won’t be mentionning religion although it would really make for interesting comments about the synergy of messengers and messages.

What I will say, though, is that I appreciate people who have taken the time to tell me that they find value in my blog posts even though they don’t personally know much about me.  I find it incredible that in social space I can put out a message on my little corner of the internet and then connect with people all over the world who share the same common interest as me.  To me, that is really powerful.

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2 Responses to “Assigning Value to the Message & Messenger Both Offline and Online”

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Your avoidance of intensely personal issues imbues the blog not only with a sense of “professionalism” a term I’ve always hated, but with actual AUTHORITY.

Thebrewsnews is fast becoming THE ebay authority in my book as regards issues of usability, socioeconomic strata, and policy direction.

Others held that title for awhile, but lost it due to veering off into their disintegrating personal lives, indulging in bashing of those they disagree with, or simply being bought off (or selling out).

Thebrewsnews is a valuable resource, refreshingly free of snark, yet witty and posessed of a simple common sense. The message in and of itself provides 100% of that value.

The online/offline component never really comes into question since this blog mostly chronicles an entity that is itself online(ebay).

That skirts a whole set of issues because the only qualification needed is keen observance- and this blog fits the bill nicely.

Provided the comparisons between real-life experiences vs ebay policy continue to be relevant, they in no way detract from the blog.

> people have responded favorably to what I write

The apocryphal 99% plus scribble across the Internet, and call themselves writers. Whereas you are a Writer. People tend to notice.

> I blog for my own personal recreation

“Writing is not a serious business, it’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun at it. If it’s work, stop it and do something else!”
Ray Bradbury


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