BG and I recently watched a documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright and I found that it related to the work we do in social media marketing (natch).
There were two instances in particular that related to social media marketing. But I need your help in making sense of it all.
An Open Plain
The documentary explained that before Wright, rooms were frequently closed off by doors. Each room in a home had a purpose and each purpose was discrete. You eat in the dining room and that room alone; sliding doors separate the dining room from the sitting room and library.
Wright's homes, however, have an open feel. You can often see through several room at a time - your view is rarely blocked with doors or hairpin turns. The corners aren't obtrusive. There is a flow and openness that many find appealing.
Of course, this made me think of old and new media. In earlier times, we relied on journalists to provide the news; it's what they did and they alone could do it. We staffed a PR person to speak to the press, and only with canned, pre-rehearsed statements. There was a strict hierarchy to be obeyed. The org chart was scripture.
Hasn't social media marketing changed all that! Now, some blogs outrank The New York Times in search engines. Peter Shankman's HARO directly connects journalists and sources. A Zappos employee - any Zappos employee - is allowed to speak to any member of the press.
Amazing things happen when walls - literal or virtual - are broken down.
Technology As Benefit Or Impediment
Later on in his life, attention shifted from American architects to modernists in Europe. They build sleek, austere buildings, using different industrial materials. It was a 180 degree shift from the organic feel of Wright's work.
Sour grapes or not, Wright hated these buildings, claiming that the modernist architects were using technology for technology's sake - not to improve the building or make it more livable, but simply because it was new. He felt their designs were lifeless, especially compared to his natural homes with their autumnal hues.
How often do we fall into the same trap? Did we join Twitter and Pownce and Orkut and any number of other networks because they improved our lives or simply because they were the shiny new object? Does that iPhone app really help your clients and their customers, or are you building it because it's new and exciting?
Technology can easily become an impediment to communication and community, rather than a facilitator, especially these days.
What Do You Think?
Are these apt observations or am I grasping here? I wonder what you think.
I also wonder where this is going. One of the last projects of Wright's career was taking on the challenge to build a $5,000 home - a house for the mass, a democratic architecture. But he couldn't do it. Wright always ran over budget. He could never give everyone what they wanted for the right price without compromising his standards.
Can that example relate to social media marketing as well? Is our lesson that community cannot be faked? That customers simply cost $X to retain or engage? That our tools (i.e. blogs) might be free, but the investment in time and energy for quality connections will remain high?
What do you think? Is open architecture like our flatter organizations? Is our obsession with technology like the European modernist architects? What is on the horizon for social media marketers?
(Image courtesy of mach3 via Flickr)