Charles Frith pointed this out. The great internet party seemed to be a perfect cup of chaos for this week.
Internet Party 2: An Intervention for MySpace — powered by Cracked.com
Kris Hoet shares this video from Microsoft's Office Labs group showing what the business world might be like in 2019. There are plenty of ideas jammed into two minutes.
While you are watching it, I would suggest asking yourself "what does this mean for my customers". Think about what these types of changes mean for the way that we interact with one another. You might be suprised at what springs to mind!
It seems that Twitter is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment. Perhaps, as it mainstreams, it will surf over the barriers that continue to hold sites like Facebook and LinkedIn back from true, widespread, public appeal.
One of the driving forces behind this is the ease with which celebrities can use and connect with their audiences. For while many celebrities use Facebook, they do so furtively and largely away from the prying eyes of the general public. The benefits of connection that we all find in managing our social graphs via Facebook is certainly well-known by celebrities – even if the occasional Paris Hilton privacy leak causes some ripples of concern.
Twitter, however, allows celebrities to simply and effectively extend their personal networks and reach much further – with little downside. They are, after all, already used to acting, behaving and interacting with people on a large scale. Twitter paradoxically, allows them more control than other kinds of media.
By using Twitter, celebrities can ACTUALLY communicate directly with their fans and friends – there are no agents, journalists or PR people involved. For once, a celebrity is able to communicate with their communities in an unmediated and unregulated manner. Stephen Fry is doing this successfully as is MC Hammer. Britney Spears has her own social media team, but also drops into the twitterstream from time to time. John Cleese provides excellent entertainment and diversion and Lance Armstrong is a must-follow for the cyclistas. The Guardian also shares a list of US politicians as well as porn stars who use Twitter.
This fascinates me. Many brands who begin to experiment with social media work from the concept of control outwards – gradually, through participation and experience, finding a comfortable method of managing conversations. Celebrities, however, start from the other end of the spectrum – un-managed conversations, direct discussions with fans and unmediated content.
Interestingly, I have a feeling that the adoption of Twitter by celebrities will actually drive the sort of widespread adoption that will break the mainstream barrier. I love that they “get it” immediately … after all, celebrities, like no other, understand the strange power of connecting with crowds.
But on that note … what is it REALLY like for a celebrity with thousands of followers? Recently, Ian Tait took the following video showing the twitterstream exploding with comment when Google’s Gmail service failed. It really is a torrent.
The playground was a swarm. To my left there are legions of boys running to and fro; to my right whole classes seem to be moving steadily across the playground. In front of me, our shared destination – the canteen – sits alone like a giant weatherboard pimple rising up out of the summer asphalt.
But there is a commotion on the grass on the far side of the building. There is a ring of boys bubbling across the lawn and spilling into the playground. Every now and then, one boy shoots off like a meteor to the far side of the playground. Minutes later, the gravity draws him back into orbit. But it is not one boy who returns – but three or four at a time.
Eventually I relent and go to see what is happening. By now the crowd is two or three deep and I struggle to see who is caught at the centre of the crowd. It is Grant Auchterlonie and he is in my class. After some time and after many of the other boys have left I finally get to see what the fuss is about. And there it is … on his arm. It is the first digital watch that I have ever seen – complete with stopwatch to 1/100th of a second.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. The excitement and buzz in the playground is palpable. But it is not just this story that has stuck with me. There were many other stories created that day.
As I discussed yesterday, influence is not just about the number of people that you have in your social network. There is a much more complex dynamic in effect where your personal store of social capital is used and accrued based on your interactions with those in your network. For example, in this diagram, it is easy for Katie to reach a large number of people. She is at the centre of the network with 1st degree connections to most people. When she chooses to push out into this network, she uses up a unit of accrued social capital. But to reach beyond the 1st degree network to Stan, Katie must go “through” either Ian or Gav. That means that she must use up two units of social capital. Interestingly, Ian and Gav must also use up one unit of social capital in this process as well. So reaching to the 2nd degree network requires not TWO but THREE units of social capital. As you can see, with every ADDITIONAL degree that you move through your network, an exponential amount of social capital is consumed.
BUT one of the most fascinating aspects of this is that the process can also be easily reversed. That is, social capital is ACCRUED when this process is reversed, driven by the power of a personal story. How? This is the Auchterlonie effect in action.
The Auchterlonie Effect
When a remarkable event takes place we play multiple roles. We are observers – watching from a distance. We are participants interacting with the other players. We may be the subject of the event itself (such as the ‘birthday girl/boy’). But as the temporal moment of the event passes, we become STORYTELLERS – crystallising the events in a narrative that involves us, encompasses the range of other participants and provides emotional drive to bring others into the loop of this story. The Auchterlonie Effect is the impetus that drives the ongoing story of YOUR personal engagement with the initial event – and it is, essentially, being able to bask in the reflected credibility of another.
In the playground, I accrued an enormous amount of social capital because I knew the “guy who had the digital watch”. And the people who knew me were able to proudly say that they “knew the guy who knew the guy who had the digital watch”.
How does this work outside the playground?
Say, Katie gets a new iPhone. It is the first in the country. No one has seen one before. And when she comes to coffee morning on Friday, she brings her new treasure along. A crowd gathers. As the person sitting next to her, I am in close proximity to this new device and am able to try it out. I am interested. And while Sue casts her envious eye over the prize, I move to a table nearby where my friend, Stan, is sitting. I relate the story of the iPhone. I explain how my 1st degree friend has a highly desired iPhone and talk to him about the things that I discovered while using it a few minutes ago. I suggest that, if he is interested, that I could get him a closer look at the said, iPhone. Meanwhile, Stan’s young friend, Jules, arrives for his morning ritual of coffee and muesli and listens into my story. Picking up on the vibe and the opportunity, Jules asks to tag along. So together, the three of us return to get a closer glimpse of the iPhone.
In this example, the flow of social capital is reversed. By creating, driving and owning this story, I accrue a unit of social capital from Stan. I also accrue a unit of social capital from Jules, as does Stan. And when I bring this story back to its source (Katie), she accrues THREE units of social capital – that is, she benefits from the network effect of my story. Importantly, the most important element in this whole process is NOT the object – the iPhone – but the STORY. And at the heart of this is a series of SOCIAL JUDGEMENTS that have unlocked value for each and every participant.
Now, multiply this out across the rest of the network and you can see that the power of the story can easily build very quickly. This is what we would commonly call “viral” – as in the case of a “viral video”.
The power of the story
In The Future of Your Brand is Play, I discussed how you can begin to build “infatuations” into your marketing. It is these infatuations which create the conditions for the Auchterlonie Effect. But by understanding this effect, you can help facilitate social judgement – for at every point of connection across the network, each person must make a decision about whether to bring another person into the gravitational pull of the story. When Stan introduced Jules into the story above, he had evaluated the situation and realised that he could accrue a unit of social capital based on his proximity to the story.
The strength of weak ties
Before something DOES “go viral” it needs to spread beyond the echo chamber of 1st degree connections. Without this vital step, a story will just circulate upon itself until it collapses under the collective weight of retelling.
But, you see, social judgement is incredibly tenuous. Often it has only one strand
, as shown here. If the one link breaks, then the story will not spread into adjacent social networks. It is why, as Valdis Krebs suggests, influence needs many connected people to spread – not just the highly connected.
This is precisely why it is difficult to predict when a video or a meme will “go viral”. It can only succeed when the MARGINAL cost of trusting is LESS than the risk of losing a person’s trust – where social capital continues to accumulate towards the centre of the experience.
But understanding the Auchterlonie Effect and the way in which social capital accrues is essential in achieving your marketing outcomes in a social context. By allowing social judgement to be exercised around your brand’s story, you are producing social capital as a by-product. And this can only be a good thing for brands (if they get it right).
Oh, and in case you are wondering – unfortunately, Grant’s claim to fame was fleeting. But even though I later purchased my own digital watch, I still recall the day when his watch made me famous too.
Sometimes the internet feels overwhelming. Each day when I logon to my work email I know that there are going to be dozens of emails requiring some form of attention. Where I can, I scan for the most urgent items and attend to those – responding or perhaps delegating. Emails that require a more considered or detailed response are left open while I research an answer, make calls or pull together my response. Then, of course, there are the daily tasks of working – meetings, phone calls – and the DOING part, which should take up most of the day.
But a proportion of my DOING work revolves around the Internet as well. So I scan blogs and RSS feeds, check various systems for facts, reportage, responses and conversations. There may be a hundred or so blogs and feeds to keep up with.
And after work, with my blog and my reading and my areas of interest, I can easily add another 100-150 RSS feeds and a similar amount of email. Then there is Twitter, which alone generates a substantial amount of email (follower requests, direct messages and so on), as well as well over a thousand messages a day. No wonder I have little time for the interruption of advertising.
But while it can APPEAR overwhelming, I have made very clear choices about how I manage this glut of information. As I began to think about the stages of Twitter Commitment, I realised that there are fundamental building blocks which underpin our use of new social network technologies. Some time ago I thought it looked like this:
But this was too simplistic. It was missing the essential human element that drives our interactions – trust. But trust in a social network is dynamic – it constantly shifts, changes shape and transforms itself as the context changes. So rather than “trusting” – we are exercising what I call “social judgement”.
Basically, social judgement allows us to make decisions based not only on our who we trust, but on how much trust we place in certain other individuals. For example, this is how I use Facebook:
If I receive a Friend Request from someone I don’t know personally on Facebook, I look to see who we know in common. I then make a VALUE judgement about HOW judicious (or dare I say, “promiscuous”) each of our mutual friends are in terms of their social networks. Sometimes I look at the first one or two mutual friends – sometimes I evaluate all of the mutual friendships before making a decision. Where I feel that I can trust the web of connections between us, I will confirm friendship.
This is at least partly why influence in social networks is not just about numbers, but about the trust or “social judgement” which lubricates them. It is not necessarily about connecting to the most people, but connecting to the most people who can derive benefit by interacting with you. You see, it is not about YOU creating value for people (by creating content, linking etc), but people FINDING value in what you do create.
HP’s recent research would suggest that friends are more important than followers – and it seems that Julian Cole agrees. However, as Granovetter’s research on the strength of weak ties showed, people are more likely to take action where there is a weak tie connection between parties.
And this means that there is a choice involved. Every time we forward on a link, retweet a message read on Twitter or any other type of social network interaction, we are CHOOSING to act. We are not just using our network of connections to FILTER the noise, we are using it to SHAPE our experience. It is a choice. And understanding this distinction places us in a context where STORYTELLING emerges as vitally important?
To explain this, tomorrow, I will share with you one of the important elements of Social Judgement – the Auchterlonie Principle.
I have worked on and with teams for most of my career … and I have found that I am most productive (and creative) when I am in a team environment (ok I like to lead, but can play nicely with others!). I know this is not the case for everybody – yet I am always surprised to learn that colleagues don’t understand the mechanics of collaboration. Even the basics of brainstorming seem foreign to some people. But now, Leisa Reichelt provides a solution that will get your collaborative process off to a flying start … with some great tips and techniques for brainstorming.