A recent survey showed that when buying electronic toys, people are influenced in the first place by friends and relatives. What used to be the role of the salesman in the shop, has now done been taken over by a new generation. First it was journalists, then famous countrymen or other TV personalities, but today active bloggers or other online curators determine the market. Trendwatching (last year guest at a seminar at Agency.com Brussels) calls this “Curated Consumption”.

Did you buy the latest album from Jamie Cullum? If I were a jazz guru, you’d be in the record shop already (or online). Now, if you go onto iTunes you’d better have noted down that name correctly, because there’s about 5653 jazz musicians on there. This is again that ‘Long Tail’ (see previous post). So how do I discover the best songs in this long tail? Not easy.
Let’s take another example. Imagine you’re on the iTunes music strore and you click on P!nk. At the top of the list with iMixes (playlists made by professional or amateur DJ’s) there is a list called “songs … that rock”. It appears to be a cool DJ set, and somewhere in the middle there is “Eve 6”. Never heard of? That’s quite normal as the band stopped in july 2004. With no more then 4 clicks you just surfed from P!nk to a no-longer-existing punk rock band. Our iMix DJ and his playlist on iTunes have shown us the way, he’s our curator.

Traditional media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) and of course newsportals offer us an immense amount of information. But in the blogphere there is even more news to be found. How can we find our way in there?
The answer is again in human intelligence. The internet has grown big as a source of information; the next leap forward is in the web as a means of communication. People ‘talk’ with people online. The curators of the web write on their blogs, the community of readers around those blogs answers through comments or their own blogs. Or it can even be much simpler; you buy a book and write a review on Amazon.com. Now you are the curator.

This phenomenon has given rise to a new generation of trusted people who direct the market. They are many, but only exist thanks to their public. And that public (that community) with similar interests connects through blogs, tag clouds, RSS feeds, del.icio.us, audio and video podcast and many more forms and shapes of social software to come. They show the way on the information highway and have a lot of influence. But … only as long as their community trusts them.

To end this piece, here’s a tip for marketers looking for a “hip” edge for their next campaign. If you think about using communities, keep in mind that the blogsphere is a very volatile environment. The power of the each community member is so strong that the smallest mistake will fire back hard.

No need to be an elephant in the online china-store. Handle with care!