It is a strange combination, I know; Carly Fiorini -- Senate candidate, Lady GaGa -- the pop culture icon and "Judy Consumer" (and we all know her). You may be tempted to quickly answer; "Oh they're all women." But if you stop at that simple answer, you'll miss something so much more interesting. And to appreciate it, let's take a moment to understand these three personalities.
We'll start with Carly Fiorini. She is currently running for Senate and she represents a growing and conspicuous league of business savvy women wanting to make a difference via politics. Ideology aside, many of these politically aspiring women, (e.g. Meg Whitman of eBay fame who is running for governor is another example), made their name having been a successful part of the Internet technology revolution.
Carly, as someone I worked with years ago at Lucent Technologies (I worked in her relatively small brand management team during the Lucent launch), always represented to me an archetype; as one of a generation of women who could be thought of as the "midwives of Internet" -- helping birth not only a new industry but a new power paradigm as well. Carly's success at Lucent (they made the fibers and systems that make the Internet work) propelled her into the CEO chair at HP. Carly and Meg understood how transformative Internet could be and they were right to know that this was a baby destined to do great things.
So if we think of Carly as a "midwife" of the Internet, Lady GaGa arguably represents the other side of the generational spectrum. This is a person who, barely 24 years old, used the Internet to scale to pop culture heights that most artists needed decades to build, indeed if ever. Some dismiss Lady GaGa as merely a singer who will do any outrageous thing to get noticed. But in today's socially connected world, you can easily discover that she considers herself a "performance artist" (not just a singer) and when thought of that in that light -- her work makes total sense -- whether you like it or not. The point is that the Internet was a platform to let this artist get her work out and the subtext that must go along with it to help us understand how she meant it. Normally, it would take a long long time (and a lot of money) to get that type of subtle message out there using traditional PR or media. Not so with Internet. Distributing content can be easier and faster than ever before. I would lay money down that without Internet Lady GaGa would not have gotten so famous so fast.
Now let's look at Judy Consumer. She is represented in so many stories of so many women who were able to tap into the power of this truly "gender blind" technology called Internet. Why? Because Internet, a.k.a. "interconnected networks", was a perfect match between "Judy Consumer's" natural gifts for communications and connectivity with the Internet's basic function as a connector of information and people. Study upon study, like this one from Mashable reporting on Women-on-the-web, confirms that more women use more social media for longer periods than men. Happily, to meet the demand of women who wanted to use the Internet to connect, there were really smart people who created "easy to use" platforms or technology solutions giving "Judy Consumer" the tools to tap into the amazing transformative technology power grid freely or cheaply.
Here are some examples of what this potent combination yielded.
MingleMedia TV Network is a popular platform run by Stephanie Piche that is an online media and live web TV network community focused on lifestyle programming for women. This company provides the means for women to have live web shows with live audience interaction as a way to connect and promote commerce.
Some amazing "Judy Consumers" who are making use of this platform include Leah Segedie from www.mamavation.com. Leah uses MingleMediaTV to help women change their life by connecting and rallying them together each week to celebrate weight loss success stories. Leah was inspired to do this after the birth of her son after which she lost 100 pounds.
Another "Judy Consumer" example using MingleMedia TV is Robin Craig. This 3 time Emmy award winner (producer of day time TV) found herself widowed in her late 40's and started a movement to help other widows and widowers start living. Her power lies in her story telling capability which is amplified a zillion times courtesy of the Internet and social media. She skillfully blends live programming interaction, offline interactions, Facebook and Twitter to build a following efficiently and productively. MingleMedia TV supports dozens of such "Judy Consumer" stars who both promote their personal passion, cause or issue and can accumulate digital currency to activate their audiences.
Another technology platform that "Judy Consumer" is flocking to is called OpenSky Project. It combines social media and e-commerce so bloggers, editors, celebrities, social media mavens can make money off their passion. This is a free platform that lets publishers like bloggers sell products to their followers who know and trust them. On a hunch, I emailed the CEO of OpenSky Project, John Caplan and asked him what % of his members are women. His short email response sent 30 seconds later (meaning it was a no-brainer); "over 70%". I knew it.
The final platform I want to introduce you to is called Zivity. The founder Cyan Banister created a highly interactive site/ community platform that lets models, photographers, artists and "rock stars" have the freedom to express themselves based on their creative sensibilities and not on whether it is must pass some artificial "acceptable" test for a mass audience. This liberating platform and community attracted a wide range of creative talent including a photographer named Jessica Palopoli a.k.a. Ickaboo. Her story is especially interesting because her teenage passion for photography came to a screeching halt for a while with the advent of the Internet/ digital revolution. She was, she confessed "very depressed about it" because digital photography made her feel like her work was "obsolete." And then Ickaboo started working with Zivity as one of their first photographers. This experience totally reshaped how she felt about photography and the art of portraiture, her specialty. She learned new concepts and techniques but mostly she learned how digital art can be rich in its own right. Even more importantly, her connections within the Zivity community gave her a wide audience which helped her gain visibility in the New York Times and to connect with clients like these theater groups SF Playhouse, Shotgun Players and Berkeley Playhouse.
I hope by now (and thanks for hanging in there with me till now), you probably can guess where I am going with our original question: What do Carly Fiorini, Lady GaGa and Judy Consumer have in common? To me, when viewed through the filter of historical perspective, we see that women, for the first time perhaps ever, are creating and shaping the contours of a new digital society based on an Internet grounded in trust; her own personal Trust Web. She flocks to social networks because she can inject trust into the mega-untrusted-net. She would rather buy from a bloggers she knows than mega-shopping portals that are based who knows where.
And this is just the beginning. More and more, "Judy Consumer" will activate the power of the Trust Web in other, interesting business ways too. An example of this trend is a group called "CSR Co-op" (Corporate Social Responsibility) founded by Donnetta Campbell. It is a rare combination of about 8 different companies like Birds Nest Foundation founded by Avis Gold Richards that produces creative Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and short videos for charitable organizations; HUMMedia, an innovative, digital Media Agency led by Joy DiBenedetto that translates "word of net" onto a truly global stage; and Natalie Petouhoff -- Chief strategist at Weber Shandwick among others. The goal of the CSR Co-op is to:
...create a group of powerful like-minded companies and individuals to help build support for a foundation that ... can propel the CSR message forward through business and events that raise awareness and funds under the roof of one solid foundation."
This co-op is novel because it is a group of companies each with a specific technology specialty; production, digital publicity, social media, direct response, content producers et al who agree to collaborate on projects thus becoming a powerful digital and social media marketing machine to promote important social issues or agendas. These idealistic ventures are being created by women -- not men, (but somehow, I doubt that surprised anyone of you -- now does it).
This then is what binds all the Carly's, GaGa's and Judy's out there -- we are co-creators of the newly emerging digital society, and as result, we are creating nothing less than the next evolution of humanity.
Pretty awesome -- don't you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts no matter what they are. Bring it on -- I am ready.
Follow Judy Shapiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/judyshapiro