Monday, August 24, 2009

marking your social media territory

The other night, at Parents' night, the teacher explained how 2-3 year-old kids are really into the idea of "guarding." He proceeded to give me a handful of pebbles my son had asked him to "guard" that very day. Of course, after a brief moment of inexplicable pride, my immediate instinct was to question how I've raised him to be so territorial.

Then I realized he's far from alone; he's probably a social media maven in-the-making. 

Our social media behavior obviates how territorial we all are. Take hashtags on Twitter. What better way to say "guard this idea"? RT-ing, in this vein, is yet another defense mechanism-- that is, defending your intellectual territory. It's a way to show your association with an idea, if not partially own it. What about the race to pagerank? It's all about marking territory. Is oversharing yet another tactic? Increasing the probability that you'll be rewarded with authority, influence, and other forms of credit for any number of potential memes...

To me, hashtags on Twitter epitomize the idea of territory-marking. They seem inherently different from tags in other media, e.g. blogs. I have a feeling our hashtagging motivations go deeper than the universal need to classify and develop a taxonomy. There's something subversive and blatant about the ownership motive there. Maybe the ephemeral nature of Twitter encourages us to hoard more intensely than a longer-form, more enduring medium. 

Could the sheer scale and fast-growing nature of social media bring out this territorial instinct in all of us? It reminds me of the drastically different behavior we show when primed with mortality salience. I remember one study where men rated wholesome women to be more attractive than promiscuous ones when primed with their own mortality. I wonder if we use more hashtags when Twitter volume is particularly high-- as a strategy to manage the noise. This would be a nice microcosm of the increased territory-marking that seems to be going on as communication - messages and media -- proliferates. 

We've long known that unpredictability and lack of control compel us to make our mark. When my son asks his teacher to guard things, he clearly perceives risk in losing them. Preservation and ownership claims make sense for the uncertainty that is life at age 2. If we, however, perceive a loss of control in social media, we might need to conjure up better strategies to establish order. 

Photo credit: Mrs. Logic on Flickr

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SXSWi: voting is live

My hockey coach once told me you should always vote for yourself. If you have any hesitation, you shouldn't play, run for leadership positions, or in this case, submit ideas. 

In light of his sage advice, I wanted to ever so unhumbly show you what my team has submitted to SXSWi 2010, each of which I've confidently voted for. Take a look and see what you think. There are many, many other (2k+) great-looking submissions well worth checking out prior to September 4th. 

We'd appreciate your consideration.  

Social Business By Design (David Armano)

  • Description:  The hype around social media has become deafening. Organizations are feeling pressured to "join the conversation” or risk being irrelevant. However, a “social business” has to be designed from the ground up and the top down in order to achieve transformation which scales. Are we ready to move beyond lip service?

  • Will address:  What is "social business design"? Why is this important to me? What implications does social business design have for my organization? Why do I need a "social business strategy"? What technologies are relevant? How will this help me with my current social business initiatives? What should I be measuring? Why is this different from what I'm doing now? How will advancements in cloud computing, open source, and mobile factor? Where do I start?

Sponsored Conversations: Good Strategy or Spam? (Peter Kim)

  • Description: Does sponsored social media content work? When it comes to pay-for-play, many bloggers see no issue with “sponsored conversations” and point out that it’s happened for years. Others decry this practice as payola and challenge the credibility of those who accept payments. Who’s right?

  • Will address:  Should marketers support sponsored conversations? Do bloggers undermine their credibility by accepting payments? Will the FTC ruling have a material impact on this practice? How are large consultancies advising their blue chip clients on this issue? How do well-known bloggers see an impact on their approach? What standards should bloggers adhere to, especially vis-a-vis journalists? Can paying for conversation deliver unbiased content? Does this work as a form of advertising? From those who have participated, what's the ROI of sponsored conversations? Is this an inevitable trend, as Forrester claims? If so, how big will it get?

Stop the Insanity: Making Sense of the Social Web (me)

  • Description:  As social technologies become woven into our lives, our breadcrumbs become more varied and dimensional. Making sense of this information is challenging- for users and marketers. Methods from social and personality psychology are potential antidotes. Enough with pages views to demonstrate value. How can analysis account for the rich depth of data?

  • Will address:  How, besides traditional web analytics, can you demonstrate the value of social technology? Why is everyone obsessed with Influence and Engagement-- does either construct have any merit? What is a good framework to use when thinking about data available through social technology? Which constructs matter when you're "listening" online? As users, how can we make sense of the information we give and receive about ourselves everyday? Are there better ways to present myself online? Quicker ways to perceive others? What can you really know about someone based on their profile, blog, or tweets? What do marketers currently know about us, based on our online communication? What can social scientists tell us about social media? Are there any ways for marketers to go beyond buzz levels and sentiment?

  • Potential panelists: Jonathan Carson - co-founder, BuzzMetrics; President International, Nielsen Online; Daniel Debow - co-founder, co-CEO Rypple; Sam Gosling - University of Teaxas at Austin Personality psychologist and author of Snoop: What your stuff says about you

Hopefully see you in Austin soon. And if we do get in, be sure to Tweet precisely!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Slow down: you appear to have a Socially Transmitted Disease

Peter Kim, coiner of terms such as the headfake and other online gems asked me about STDs: Socially Transmitted Diseases. 

We seem to all have different strands (memes?) of these STDs. My Sunday Styles folk will recall this is why Michael Malice developed Protocols, "fighting against this whole idea that everything people do has to be constantly chronicled."

But there's more to it. It's cliche to suggest we're excessively social because we can be. Insert stale joke here about someone blogging while you're disclosing a deep, dark secret, tweeting while they're eating breakfast, or Jeff Jarvising your customer service... STDs are multidimensional beasts. Gone are the days where attention, narcissism, or reputation-management drove our online behavior.

We're addicted to accruing followers and engaging with that community so much so that 2-hours of down-time on Twitter leads to fearful outcries that "social media is standing still" 

We're reinforced by the ability to cleanse our stream, for example getting huge rushes of adrenaline when you tap into the new ease of hiding irrelevant, yet active-sharers on Facebook. 

Dare I intervene with catchy labels for these STDs Engagamydia? Signaliasis?

Pete reminded me of the depression of unconfirmed friend requests and the exhilarating "whoosh" of sending an email on Mac Mail. Amazing how these new behaviors are toying with our brain chemistry... 

Sometimes we need to remember that social technology is actually enabling our organic, social instincts, not transforming us into a new breed of monsters. Remember: we're social animals. We strive to get along and get ahead, it's only natural to get excited about the increased amplification of our signals.

But like a pretty girl in college, take your time to develop and manage your ecosystem. Social media is a vehicle for social behavior, more Sedan than DeLorean.