A Twittering (and Related Social Platforms) Update Part 3 – Following No One

[Note: This is a repub of a post originally written in Aug 2012 on the version of this blog that died. We’re getting lots of requests for it so we’re republishing it here. Enjoy!]

This is the third post in a six part blog-arc about some recent research NextStage has done regarding Twitter and several other social platforms.

These posts will cover

  1. Followers
  2. Watches
  3. "You don't follow anybody"
  4. Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …
  5. Private v Public Personae
  6. "You rarely point to someone else's writing"

This post deals with something people complain about from time to time, the fact that… I Don't Follow Anyone …and therefore I'm antisocial. This is a demonstration of either such wonderfully flawed logic as to itself offer an explanation of same or such a limited world-view as to be saddening.

Twitter et al are becoming more and more marketing platforms and few marketers (in my opinion) understand the psycho-sociology behind them enough to use them properly as a marketing platforms (did you read the take-away in this arc's previous post?). Followers and twits (now do you know why I call them "twits" instead of "tweets"?) are for sale. Lots of companies (and some individuals) routinely purchase them as part of their marketing campaigns when products launch, rebranding occurs, etc. etc.

Let them purchase all they want. Unless that purchase includes recognizably genuine phatic content — mundane chatter from individuals who are psychologically vested in the product, brand, service, offering, … — it's worthless.

Being boring and dull, my needs are equally mundane. I'm not interested in adverts even if they are in 140 or fewer characters.

But I do follow people, simply not on Twitter. I correspond regularly via email, Skype, phone, etc, with a fair number of people. That fair number, regardless of medium, is typically around 70. Why 70? Read They're Following Me! (More on Twitter) for the answer. What am I doing with 375 or so followers? I'm providing them with Watches so that tribe size remains manageable, frustrations (followers and my own) are minimized and people only have to read what they want.

My regular use of channels alternative to Twitter amounts to following them and in what I believe is a much more intimate, much more personal way than Twitter, and specifically to an earlier point, in a way that greatly approximates how much I value everybody's time. If I don't know you, if I'm not somehow vested in your life, I don't really care to know what you're doing every fifteen minutes of your life. If I do know you and I am vested, I'll be in touch in ways that let you know you are genuinely important to me.

Is this what NextStage suggests to clients regarding social policy? Heck no! What, do you think we're nuts or something?

But can you understand that our (pretty much everyone here at NextStage has the same attitude) thoughts on how, when and where to interrupt people's lives with social information makes us killers at helping clients interrupt consumers lives in ways that stick positively?

No? Then I must ask "How are your social efforts doing, really?"

I rarely refuse interactions, be they phone or Skype. I'm known for not responding quickly to emails yet I am known for definitely responding. One correspondent also wrote that he had to get use to the idea that I actually read everything in an email, not just skimmed and not just certain parts.

My emails often start with

Howdy,
(catching up on emails)
Comments within:

My responses to a specific item come right after that item, much more like a discussion and much easier to follow as no one has to go digging for threads.

I do follow people and do so by occasionally looking up their streams for "interesting to me" items. There are two things happening there: 1) I determine what to look at (like walking down bookstacks in a library) and 2) I determine the schedule (I'm not interrupted).

The majority of Twitter streams don't interest me because they're either irrelevant to my day or embarrassingly unsubstantiated opinion. Some of what's on Twitter is phatic but it's from people I don't know hence, with no investment in them as friends, why do I care about their phatickly boring day? It's just as boring as mine, I'm sure, and sometimes mine is mind-numbing (what we in the NextStage offices call "brainpoo") and if mine is numbing enough why would I want to further subject myself to someone else's insipidities by encouraging theirs?

Or perhaps it's true and I am anti-social.

Sometimes I find something I want to pass on to my followers and do so via a ReadWatch. It doesn't happen often. It happens so seldom, in fact, that one can rightly determine something really has to impress me before I'll intrude on other people's times and spaces. The last time I posted a ReadWatch the author wrote to thank me for recognizably increasing their traffic. I was flattered because the increase was several multiples of my number of followers at the time.

So I do follow people, simply not obviously so, and I follow my friends in a way that allows them to keep their relationship to me private if they so desire.

A Link Does Not a Friend Make

From the above we can conclude that I have a definition of "friendship" different from the current social-marketing norm (see what a friend wrote about my friendship in my About the Author section of Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires (available in print and on Kindle.Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires Someone read that and wrote that they hoped their friends thought as well of them. I offered that it depended on how they valued friends. Go figure).

These concepts of friendship and time also explain my reluctance to refer people through online social networks. Unless NextStage has actually worked with someone or some company or I consider you a friend, I won't perform an introduction or offer a referral. A link does not a friend make and while some I do business with have become friends not everyone I do business with is a friend. Also, I know enough psycho-social behavioral dynamics to know that, for the majority of people, how one treats one in business is how they'll treat you outside of business, ergo there is, to me, a difference between those I count as friends and those I know in business. Sometimes the differences are only revealed over time.

The lesson here is, if you want something from me, don't act as if you're my friend if you don't really know me. Just ask me for what you want. You're much more likely to get it as my BS tolerance is extremely low. Example: a brand management company sent an email to our R&D group asking how to contact me. This impressed the heck out of me as my email address is easy to find with a few minutes search engine work. Eois got the email and wrote back asking what they wanted (nobody here recognized the company or the writer). They were interested in our research and how I do research. Eois wrote back that he could answer their questions, what research were they interested in?

At this point the writer owned up that they wanted to sell me something.

Eois' BS tolerance is higher than mine but that's why he gets paid the big bucks. State your goal up front when contacting us. We really don't want you to be all phaticky if we don't know you.

<RANDOMTHOUGHT>
NextStage's BlueSky (BS) MeterYou know, there might be a market for a BJ Meter, similar to NextStage's BlueSky (BS) Meter except it's more tuned to the types of BS that come from fawning and sycophantery when the goal is to make a sale. Imagine not being sure of someone's intent, passing their blather through a tool and knowing for certain all their praise is in hopes of getting something from you and preferably a dollar!

What'd'you think? Would there be a market for such stuff?
</RANDOMTHOUGHT>

Next up, Twitter v LinkedIn v Facebook v FourSquare v Pinterest v …


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Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!


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Back from eMetrics DC’07

[Note: this post is from Oct ’07. We’re backfilling again for Joseph’s references in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation]

Officially home, officially exhausted.

My thanks to everyone who attended my presentation and the folks who attended my workshop. I enjoyed talking with you all, learning from you and sharing with you. Many folks came up to me after my presentation to share how much they enjoyed it. I’m grateful.

My favorite, I’ll admit, is a toss up. Getting a nod from Dell’s Annette Priest during her keynote was nice. I also received something in my emails that gave me a kick…

I can quite truthfully say that your talk was one of the most memorable and useful from the conference. I am sad to say that I chose to do the predictive analytics course over yours; however that choice was made prior to my arriving at the conference and it would be a very tough call if I weren’t already locked in. I will certainly keep you in mind when I am talking to clients and I will certainly follow your work in the future.

I don’t know if you caught the multivariate testing spiel from {a company}, but after seeing your talk I noticed that their use of imagery in the control and winning recipe pages was very interesting.

Their first image showed a couple with one of them looking slightly above the key message and the other slightly below the “call to action” button. The winning formula had an alternative couple image where they were both looking in the direction of the “call to action” button. It makes me think that perhaps a few small rules like that could have resulted in a similar outcome without the need for elaborate, expensive and time consuming multivariate testing. Naturally I would do an A/B test with a control group; however this would be much simpler than the full blown version.

Keep up the great work.


Many thanks. This reader is talking about a part of my presentation that I also used in Putting the user’s eyes to work. NextStage Members can download the full paper as part of their membership.

Enjoy!


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The Complete “TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?” Arc

Note: More historical posts in prep for Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition. Here is the complete “TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?” arc for your enjoyment

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Why “Whispering to Be Heard”?

I wrote in SNCR NewComm Forum Day 2 – TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse that I would share how that presentation went and explain how TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse are linked, and I don’t mean through LinkedIn.

Can you say “blog arc”?

The title of the presentation was “Whispering to Be Heard: The Art and Science of Buzz Marketing”. I had some wonderful comments about this presentation, lots of good thoughts and feedback, so I’m sharing it here in several posts.

We’re going to discuss

  • TS Eliot,
  • Ezekiel discovering that the limit of his knowledge isn’t the limit of what is knowable,
  • How to have fun with beehives and the people inside them
  • and Mighty Mouse

And of course, all of this will have that distinctive, irrepressible NextStage flair…

But first, “Why ‘Whispering to Be Heard’?”

If you really want to be heard then you need to whisper because if you talk softly then some very specific things happen:

  • the only ones paying attention will be those truly interested
  • and they will show their interest
  • and tell others of their interest.
  • Also, you also immediately create a sense of intimacy, urgency and community (very important in buzz marketing and social media in general).

You just need to be sure you reward their interest with good quality and experience.

Next, TS Eliot does Information Mechanics!

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – TS Eliot does Information Mechanics

TS Eliot wrote

Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge? Where is the Knowledge we have lost in Information?

In 1997 I wrote a paper, “Semantic Information Mechanics”.

How many of you ever heard of it? I’m guessing the reason few of you heard of it, let alone read it, was because it was filled with stuff like this.

(You could imagine the tweets that go around about that slide)

Lose that Wisdom-Knowledge-Information thing, did ya?

I wrote something a little more accessible, Yes, You Can Predict Viral Marketing, in 2006. It listed the basic elements you need to know before you start a viral or WOM campaign in order to insure success:

  • How many individuals does the campaign need to start with (seed)?
  • How fast will the campaign spread (propagation factor)?
  • How will the campaign spread (vectors)?
  • How large a group is required to sustain the propagation (viral burden)?
  • What is the campaign’s goal (maintenance factor)?
  • How large a group is required to sustain the campaign once the goal is achieved (threshold point)?
  • At what point is the campaign too successful (saturation point)?

We followed that up a year later with some other research that we published in 3 Rules for Creating Buzz:

  • Do you want a mobile or static audience to get a message out quickly? (You’ll need to read the article to understand why this is a trick question)
  • Start with a general message
  • Change the message every X hours or Y miles

I should probably let you know that we’re always doing research, we’re always updating our research. And because our technology is based on very long and in depth studies of how humans think and respond to what’s going on around them, and because it’s both an adaptive and learning intelligence, it will often see trends well in advance of what we can see.

People follow less and less online conversations as they grow older until about age 55

What it discovered this time was that people, especially people over the age of 28, are self-regulating the amount of information they interact with in a day. Two direct comments we recorded during this research included “I don’t have time to follow 20 blogs” and “I don’t have time to be on half a dozen social networks”.

What we learned was that blogs and related information sources people thought relevant, important to their lives declines with age. This is true with blogs, newsletters, places to shop.

What did increase?

We discovered that people 28yo+ will often put an information governor on their intake, often trusting as little as 2 information sources. They may give time to others but they’re only able to redact to 2-5.

Thus TS Eliot, in stating that we’ve lost wisdom via knowledge via information, was ahead of his time. I’m pretty sure semantic information mechanics — which this is — wasn’t known of, at least not a formal discipline, in his time.

Next up, Ezekiel hits his wall.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Ezekiel Hits His Wall

So we learn from TS Eliot that the limit of our Knowledge isn’t the limit of our Information. Yet people continue to seek out new information sources while simultaneously throttling down the number of information sources they’ll give their time and attention to.

Like the pilgrim who discovers there’s more information beyond what he knew existed, we begin to wonder (at least you begin to wonder these things if you work at NextStage) “What are we searching for?”

It turns out there’s a limit, a ceiling if you will, to the amount of information people are able to respond to at any given point in time. This is based on the brain’s design more than anything else.

You don’t throw out 10 million years of evolutionary adaptation because your species has been sitting in front of computers for the past ten years.

The answer to this has to do with an understanding of how language influences belief. Some call this the “Information” Age. Is that because there’s more information in our environment than there ever was before or because the method of information interaction has changed from sought to delivered?

We use to seek information because it meant our survival. We needed to know if there were predators out there, be they dangerous animals or thieves and the brain-mind still has that wiring. It isn’t about to give it up, it simply puts it to different use.

And like our ancestors who learned to pay attention to only certain movements in the grass and certain shadows in the darkness we’re learning to pay attention to only certain sources of information.

So what are the three primary things we are searching for in our information sources?

What Are We Searching For?

  • Truth – I don’t have to agree, I have to believe
  • Meaning – Explain it so I can understand it
  • Wisdom – I won’t have to work as hard to survive

We’re looking for the ceiling, the arrow, the direction, the truth. We know we may not like it, and we want to know it anyway.

There’s so much information out there we want to know that someone can be trusted, to be our friend and guide even when we don’t like what they share.

In short, we’re looking for our shamans, our priest-kings, our heroes and guides. Those of you who are familiar with my background, training and education may appreciate how amusing this was when we discovered it.

Then what?

The Moody Blues' On the Threshold of a Dream

Once someone has gotten me to the edge of information I need to have it explained to me. Like The Moody Blues‘ “In the Beginning”, “I’m more than that, I know that I am”, and as Frankl and Maslow wrote and as every cognitive scientist and psycholinguist is discovering, humans will search for meaning until they find it. They will apply meaning from their own experience if no other meaning is supplied to them.

And what do we realize about lifting the veil from our own eyes?

That all our information and all our knowledge may not be meet for the challenges ahead. We seek the wisdom to apply the information, the wisdom to understand the meaning.

And this brings us right back to TS Eliot’s

Where is the Wisdom we have lost in Knowledge? Where is the Knowledge we have lost in Information?

Next up, Beehive the icebox, there’s a sheet of glass.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Beehive the Icebox, There’s a Sheet of Glass

How is social media “social” when the majority of people aren’t participating? Is it “ego media” if people only watch? Is it performance art?

Most people spend their lives seeking identity and they surround themselves with things that reinforce what they believe their identity to be. They do it via clubs, personal branding, any number of things. Their own sense of identity, of who and what they are, is influenced by and influences everything they do. This is the “If I am a thief then you must steal” syndrome so popular in 12-step communities.

Put differently, Sally Field’s character in Soapdish will always go to the Mall with Whoopi Goldberg’s character so that Whoopi can get the crowd to “notice” Sally Field.

People who were at my Boston SNCR Awards Gala presentation know this as Holmeses and Watsons.

We all want to know we’re part of the group, we just want to be sure everybody in the group knows who we are. No matter who we are and what our individual histories are, there is this amazing dualism in our neural coding that — much like flight or fight — keeps us moving between anonymity and recognition. The prey creature in us wants to be unseen and unknown while the predator in us wants to be recognized and identified. So while we’ll be a part of this:

What we really seek and strive for is to be part of something like this because being either predator or prey is hard work. Doesn’t matter if you’re in a large crowd and are anonymous or in a small society and well known. The only safety and solace is to be part of a community, a semi-small circle of friends (about 60-75 is tops) where the balance between anonymity and recognition can be easily managed and maintained.

Prediction #1

I think vendors in the blog awareness world might call this “You’re known by the comments you keep”.

What we’ve learned and what I’ll share is that buzz marketing, word of mouth marketing, viral marketing, whatever you want to call it, will evolve to a very sophisticated “smart mob” environment, a “Hive” mind mentality.

How many people have actually tracked their buzz efforts? How many have actually observed and monitored how rapidly and how far their buzz travels, through whom, how fast, who’re the best carriers, …?

These little charts that look like petri dish cultures gone mad? These are actual charts of the spread of a viral message, each little drop signifies a cluster of 100 people “infected” with a message and spreading it on. There’s a reason it’s called “viral”, you know.

One thing these little charts are showing that is obvious only when you know what to look at is the fact that the message literally spread in one direction only; the direction of “infection” parallels the travel paths of those infected.

The clustering of the “infection” is also dependent on where the most highly infected (ie, the ones most likely to pass your message on) spend the majority of their day. NextStage has someone very knowledgeable in virology on its team and all of this information was anticipated then proven in various trials. Why other groups doing viral marketing aren’t employing these types of people I don’t know.

Spreading Your Message

You want the message to spread and there are two basic ways to do it with hive mentalities. First, you can have everyone come to your site. The benefit is that you control the message. The detriment is that there will be limits on how many people participate, how long your message stays in public awareness and how far your message can travel.

This is where the pilgrim’s wall meets the beehive.

Trust, Meaning and Wisdom are lost if you fail to provide guidance beyond the wall, yet every member of a functioning beehive — or any functioning society for that matter — knows their role in that society. Trust, Meaning and Wisdom exist and the hive functions as a whole. It simply doesn’t let any bees out of the hive and eventually dies for any number of reasons.

Or you can simply put your message out there. This is the bee coming back to the hive and dancing their little tookas off because its discovered your message about an incredibly rich field of flowers. All the bees go, lots of pollenation, lots of honey, new hives form, some go on to greatness and some just go on to other great things.

Totally different dynamics, completely different parameters same amount of risk for completely different reasons. However, you’ll never lose trust, meaning or wisdom because you’re not in control of it to begin with and you can’t lose what you’ve never had. The bees are taking the risk with the flowers.

But the big payoff is that you’ll also learn from your audience. Your offering matures as does your audience to the point where you need each other. Very good. Symbiosis, you have to love it.

This symbiotic relationship is SmartMob behavior at its best. Our current thinking is that SmartMob methods will become the most effective marketing because it is an immediate, highly specific, highly targeted and quickly rewarded call to action.

This is extremely important because people are searching for help understanding all the information in their environment. And few things will get their attention better than a reward right now for something they did right now, something directed at them, something specific they can get done and something they can do without a lot of planning.

Next up, Mighty Mouse.

TS Eliot, Ezekiel, Beehives and Mighty Mouse – Mighty Mouse

The new goal of advertising and marketing will be helping consumers brand themselves.

Anybody want to hear about the big computer company that turned bloggers around one more time? (everybody was citing Dell in their presentations)

Herding cats is possible. There’s lots of case studies and the methodology is well documented and easily understandable.

Anybody guess how to do it?

What’s the best way to herd cats? Get a very well trained mouse.

Summary

  • People seek meaning in their lives and one of the ways they get that meaning is by self-branding, creating an identity for themselves based on what they have around them.
  • Lee Iacocca said “People want economy and they’ll pay any price to get it.” I offer “People want simplicity and they’ll pay any price to get it.”
  • You can start a conversation and you must be prepared for the consequences.
  • But always always always it’s easier to control a conversation you start than one you enter.

And finally,

Invest in Mice.

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Brad Berens on “How Big Can the Web Get?”


Brad Berens commented on my How Big Can the Web Get? post that online to offline isn’t as interesting a question as heavy versus light use. I responded that I agree that the yearly dropoff rates are a relationally small number. He mentions the Nielsen Media findings of a few years back that the average American has 96 TV channels at his or her disposal but only watches about 15.

His thought is that it might be pre-emptive media filtering to me and I asked if that information had generational boundaries and took into account sites like ManiaTV.

If generational, we could be witnessing voluntary simplification on the web. This is something NextStage has been seeing for a bit and there’s not enough real evidence for it to be anything more than an interesting anecdote at present.

I agree with Brad that an interesting research venue is heavy versus light use, what Brad writes as “…an increase in the number of websites visited per session/day/week versus a more static number, etc.” This is something I think is going to be directly addressed by portals and especially portals where the visitor can place “browser windows” where they want, something alluded to in my recent IMedia piece on the death of the webpage.

Also, I think another question moving forward is what impact internet television is going to have on what people watch and how they watch it. I’ve been having some interesting talks with Drew Massey and Jason Damata of ManiaTV in preparation for an IMedia column. Interesting things are happening and, you betcha, what gets measured and how it gets measured is going to change.

What does this do to quorums? Not much, I think. The joy of quorums and quorum sensing is that they are elements of The Village (hate to harp on that concept and I do think it’s a powerful one). They come and go as required and are psychologically mobile, fluid, dynamic. Their size is more dependent on what the quorum needs to get done than the number of people willing to take part. Too large a social construct for a given function and it fractionates. Subgroups form which take on specific subfunctions, each group growing or fractionating until the optimal size for performing its function is reached. Bandura’s work pretty much confirms this, I think; quorums (groups) will form and dissolve based more on the group’s belief it can achieve some goal it defines for itself.

Quorum will sense they can form or not and that will continue. New media and new technology will only provide different petri-dishes, if you will. Society as a whole will only recognize the quorums have formed once the quorums begin to crawl out of the dish.

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