Bookcrossing and shopdropping: real world social media

BookshelfOver the holidays I picked up on an NY Times article that talks about the practice of “shopdropping,” which seems to always spike during the holidays. Shopdropping is when people bring something into a retail establishment and add it to the inventory, intending to pass it off as a legitimate product. Motives range from the self-promotional (a musician or author adding their stuff to a shelf in a record or book store) to the political (activists leaving toys or shirts promoting their philosophy).

Today I found an item on bookcrossing, which is another “stuff left behind” practice where people leave a book they have read in a random location and then promote the location of the recently “released” book on various bookcrossing websites (the most popular of which is bookcrossing.com). When people see a released book near them they race out to “catch” it. It’s lending library meets scavenger hunt.

What struck me about both of these trends is the cultural change that underpins them – a change that seems at the very least reflected in the way the web is developing. On the web people used to be just be surfing the wave, now they are the wave – making real contributions to what the internet is through social media. And whether the web caused it or is just part of it, I think people are looking around at their lives in the physical world and starting to think about a store shelf, a retail space, or a book in a different way. The question is no longer what can I find here for me? It’s what can I add to this?

I think there are business opportunities here. Retail businesses that increasingly focus themselves on a consumer’s desire to not just be a consumer, but also to be a contributor, could find themselves with many more, and more loyal, customers.

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