November 27, 2010

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

So, who's the fairest of them all?

Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, has some interesting advice for brand-owners concerned with their online image: "Make stuff that doesn't suck."

As the focus of so much marketing and sales effort moves online, this cautionary note from the man behind one of the internet's most popular sites (398 million unique monthly visitors at the last count) is more than a little timely.

Social media in particular has encouraged a kind of narcissism, which often has business-owners more concerned with how their face is reflected in the various mirrors that surround them, than with the quality of what they do for their customers.

Off-line, a shopkeeper is unlikely to squeal with delight that, "I've had fifty-five people glance in my shop-window as they passed by today. Fifty-five! That's a whole five more than yesterday." On-line however, a certain hysteria seems to accompany the number of followers, fans and likes that a site or page attracts, which often proves an unhelpful diversion from the real business in hand: "Am I making a product or offering a service that people really want or need?"

In a recent Fast Company Article, Wales suggests that, "more than ever before, people like to talk about stuff that sucks. There's nothing to be done about it, except making a better product.

Of course, it's important to listen to what people have to say about you, but not if it distracts you to the point where it becomes all about the appearance of doing a good job, rather than taking care of the job itself.

Coming from a man who's certainly not short of online admirers, Wales' advice should encourage us all to stop preening, tear ourselves away from our reflected image and concentrate on what we're doing for our customers instead.

For not even the original mirror-gazer herself, the selfish Queen and stepmother to Snow White, ever heard the answer she craved most, when she turned to her reflection to ask: 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?'