Peer-to-peer sharing services are booming. Technology now allows people to share just about anything from rides to housing to meals to even skills. Need help building a 7,000 piece Ikea dresser? There is a TaskRabbit out there who would gladly help. These emerging companies and services are part of a much bigger movement, referred to as the sharing economy or the collaborative economy, and are fundamentally changing society, as we know it.
Jeremiah Owyang, industry analyst and partner at Altimeter Group, has taken a stand supporting the collaborative economy in his most recent report. Owyang views the collaborative economy as the third phase in the evolution of the relationships between businesses and consumers. The collaborative economy is and will continue to disrupt existing institutions. Instead of buying cars, staying in hotels, and even purchasing products like textbooks and fancy dresses, Owyang believes the future is in sharing and collaboration, and he’s not alone.
The San Francisco Social Media Club hosted an event about the Social Citizen Economy featuring panelists Henk Campher from Edelman, Milicent Johnson from Peers, Rachael King from Sidecar, Johnny Brackett from TaskRabbit, and Marian Schembari from Couchsurfing.
The panelists sparked a lively discussion about how the sharing economy is affecting society and the way we live. The sharing economy is allowing society to get back to the notion of community – bringing people together. A couple of years ago, technology was actually believed to be destroying communities. Allowing people to talk, shop, and play from behind their screens in the confines of their home essentially removed the need for face-to-face interaction.
Now with the proliferation of companies who are promoting the collaborative economy, it seems that technology is actually bringing people together, not apart. These services are assisting collaboration and cooperation of their users – bringing people together, helping one another in their communities.
One common theme throughout the discussion was about how all of these companies are defined by their users. The users of these peer-to-peer sharing companies are evangelizing the companies’ messages. Rachael King from Sidecar said it best. “No one is getting in the car with a stranger unless a friend says it’s a good idea.” Trust is an essential part of the success of these companies as well, which is why they rely heavily on their advocates to spread their messages. Couchsurfing has 6M users all from word of mouth.
The sharing economy is shaking up society in big ways. The success of these companies demonstrates the power of word of mouth can have on spreading a brand’s message and the power that advocates can play into growing business.