At the Digiday Social conference today, Alan Brody of iBreakfast conjectured that we’re moving into a “relationship economy” that’s replacing the current “knowledge economy.” (Made me think of Howard Lindzon’s Social Leverage -- his thesis, in a nutshell, that using relationships and “leveraging” their power is now beating the concept of “financial leverage.”) Brody talked of how relationships -- built up over years, with special people who can hire, do favors, etc. -- cannot be outsourced to faceless people overseas, while knowledge work can. He said there are MBAs and college-educated people walking around India and Zimbabwe with every bit of useful knowledge of the people with multiple degrees in the U.S. who used to be able to use that knowledge they’d acquired to make sure they’d “never have to dig a ditch.”
Still, even in a relationship economy, the technology speeds things up, adds leverage, power. Companies like Social Vibe, whose CEO Joe Marchese was also at the conference, have shortened the timeline for creating relationships from years to months. Its passionate users select ads to place on their social network pages (such as on Facebook and MySpace) and then designate charities to receive any funds they earn. Those users are passionate, and feel a tremendous connection -- a relationship, if you will -- with SocialVibe.
Still, unlike a purely transactional commercial relationship, this one, because it runs deeper is more easy for Social Vibe to violate. The company will have to treat their passionate users with extreme care and nurturing. The company, venture-funded, seeking profit, and having arrived at their current model more by accident than by grand plan, must trust its backers to not push for fast cash above all. Marchese assured me in a previous discussion (for the We Media conference), that the backers -- including VCs JAFCO and Redpoint -- won’t subjugate the need to develop and care for users to the need to turn a profit. At We Media conference there seemed something of a consensus that, in fact, by doing social good many now believe profits will be stronger over time.