The Market for Things and Ideas Not Being Talked About

Many people and organizations have identified “listening” to the chatter on social media as an enormous business opportunity. Listening to customers, voice of the customer, sentiment analysis and even semantic technologies designed to understand the meaning in what people are saying. With the proliferation of tools that enable people to express themselves is creating an enormous amount of data to munge that many hope will lead to more successful products, features that align with needs, and marketing messages that resonate.

It occurs to me though that the biggest opportunity for organizations on the web is in the things and ideas not being talked about. Anyone who’s done ethnographic research and compared interview questions with observation knows that there is often an enormous gap between what people say and what they actually do. In the world of social media conversations are filtered through the unique cultural norms that emerge on those networks, in addition to the more engraved cultural norms at a national or organizational level.

Identifying things not being talked about in the context of the social web may sound like a zen koan but the opportunities are there to be discovered through participation and critical thinking about the cultural norms that keep possibly important topics out of the spotlight. It’s certainly my experience that there is a high degree of political correctness in a lot of these public conversations and a active avoidance of real controversy. I experienced some quite significant chilling effects from my community when I posted links to the Wikileaks video of reuters photographers being murdered which to me was an important issue, but appeared to be outside of many people’s comfort zone.

Have you experienced this chilling effect from communities you participate in? Are there taboo’s that discuss with friends that you don’t see as part of the discorse online?

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