Performing Ourselves: Why Social Media is 25% Larger than Life

I have always been drawn to acoustic performance. I love the authentic, stripped back timbre of a singer’s voice. I like the fact that you can’t hide behind the volume or be disguised by the electronic mixing. Perhaps this is why I ended up studying theatre for years.

And my study of theatre took me to unexpected places. I went from the mainstream deep into the avante garde of the early 20th Century – spending time immersed in the dark, imaginative worlds of Frank Wedekind, Antonin Artaud and Heiner Muller. I emerged, later, in the powerfully vibrant theatres of Howard Barker, Penny Arcade and Robert Wilson – where words, identity and action burned the scripts, bounced off the walls and scarred or transformed not just the audiences, but the performers too.

I learned over the years the difference between intuition and imagination, between intelligence and understanding, and that was is written is not always what is performed. The gap between text and performance excited me. Why, for example, is one performer’s version better or worse than another’s? No matter the song, it can only be a matter of words, right?

But there is an intangible sense that comes with performance. It’s about purpose and intent, and the need to step beyond what we say. We need to inhabit the very limits of who we are – physically and emotionally. In the theatre, Etienne Decroux – a physical theatre practitioner – created a grammar for the bodily articulation of movement. He discovered that to appear REAL to an audience, performers had to appear 25 percent larger than they are. Yes, they needed to be larger than life.

In social media we see this everyday. A predominantly text based form, social media in various guises requires that we write ourselves into existence. It requires us to write as a performance. And those participants who appear REAL are larger than the words that they use, their ideas magnified through the lens of Twitter, Facebook or blogs. Look at any one of the individuals you are drawn to in social media and ask yourself how much of this person do you know? How much is real and how much is performance? Are they 25% larger than life?

In the social media world of micro-celebrity, there is much we can learn from “real” celebrities – from performers who have mastered the art of celebrity as performance.

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing my thoughts on various performers and what we can learn from them as social media participants – and what it means for brands and businesses wanting beginning or already engaged in their social media performance.

Measuring the Performance of Social Media Communications

A great presentation from Valeria Maltoni on measuring how your social media communications are PERFORMING. Yes, that's right – not just "ROI" – but actual impact on the things that are important for your business.

View more documents from Valeria Maltoni.

What does this mean?

It means that YOU have to do the hard work of defining which things you want to measure and impact. You need to be actively looking at your BUSINESS STRATEGY to determine which things can remain stable and which things need to change. From there, you put in place a whole range of initiatives (some which include social media) designed to change the behaviour of your target audiences. Again – these audiences are folks that YOU need to be clear about – are you talking employees, new customers, existing customers, partners, suppliers, potential interns …

I know, you are going to ask me "can't an agency do this for me?" Of course they can. But in my view, you want to spend your hard-earned budget on creating value for your audiences. If you understand more clearly who, how and what is interesting, useful and relevant to your audiences, then you can brief your agency to deliver real value to them. It's about planning for context over placement. Remember – the clearer you are in your briefing process, the sharper results you will get. For me, forget "reach and frequency". Show me performance and business impact any day.