It’s time for a new buzzword. How about “K2K”? A takeoff of B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer), it’s a term that can change the way we perceive brands, and the way we build and evaluate them.
Today, the Internet accommodates more than three billion pages, and all estimates indicate that within three years the number will have increased to seven billion. Lack of content is no longer a problem in the Internet world. It’s the quality of content, its authority and reliability, that has become the key objective for most companies and consumers. And from now on, we could be looking at the users themselves as the providers of credible content.
Until now, only a few web sites have built upon user knowledge in a systematic way. Sites like ICQ.com, most chat rooms, bulletin boards, and online auction sites are, to some extent, based on user contribution and interaction between users. Millions of users exchange ideas every second via the Net. That potential for interaction was, after all, what made the Internet popular and functional.
All indications are that this limited forum for user knowledge sharing is going to expand. Most users receive a high number of emails asking them for favors, opinions, information; most chat rooms do the same. Eventually, jaded users will need to be motivated by some form of reward for contributing their knowledge to a site.
The reward will be knowledge, inspiration, ideas or money. But until now, only a few web sites have evaluated the quality of user contributions and arrived at some form of exchange value. Knowledge, shared between users, is the Internet’s currency: That’s K2K. Knowledge-to-knowledge enables users to exchange ideas systematically and achieve a productive and positive synergy between themselves and the medium they’re working with.
With the introduction of these types of sites, it is likely that thousands, or even millions, of users will become their own broadcasters and, in so doing, start earning money from the exercise. Users will, effectively, become trustworthy brands. Brands will no longer be the exclusive preserve of the few large entities that can afford to establish and maintain products. Branding will be an exercise available to anyone who has knowledge and is prepared to share it.
What will all this lead to? Possibly the “traditional brands,” that is dot-com and clicks-and-mortar brands, will exploit the leverage that is available from the brand platforms created by reliable users. Every user will become an interactive testimonial source, whose function by choice is to interact with other testimonial-sharing users. Users will therefore create branding content themselves.
Just imagine how this could work: experts with business-to-business expertise establishing sites and exchanging knowledge. Photographers exchanging ideas with other photographers, chefs with chefs, engineers with engineers, lawyers with lawyers,… and so on, ad infinitum. The content will not be about products; it’ll be about ideas, experience, networking and thought sharing. Now just imagine the leverage available to dot-com brands that will be able to promote the support they enjoy from certain K2K user groups.
This year will probably be the last in which we will see users prepared to share knowledge with other users for nothing. Each user is becoming a small brand in the big Internet picture. Soon the most attractive payment of them all knowledge will be required, and it will work like this: K2K between B2B, B2C and C2C.