Social Media Fatigue – Techniques and the Crush of Posting

Interest in Others - Keys to Social Media Fatigue

The Relationship Between Techniques and SMM Fatigue

Sometimes I back away from all the interesting developments and conversations happening in Social Media Marketing conversations and get an instinct to pull back from it all to re-distill what it is all about, some golden truth that drives the whole process. This instinct is pretty strong when it happens and I just know that I’m hitting on something important for myself and possibly others. Some might find the observation of this post trivial, but it hit me in a special way. When I got this truth, unfortunately, the expressed result was just one of those uber positive advice tweets that litter the Twitter conversation field, seemingly begging for a RT. It is painful to see the impulse to communicate come out so differently than my intent:

I, as many Social Media professionals do – perhaps especially those who work for multiple clients, alternating through diverse subjects and audiences – have struggled through Social Media Fatigue quiet often (let’s call it SMF). Sometimes SMF is in regards to a small task, sometimes it is with a process that has to be repeated over and over or even an audience or lack of audience. It just is the nature of the beast. Social Media demands the best of ourselves, an energy and positivity that when it gets externalized not only stimulates others, it also can awaken the best in us. But the most sensitive of us – and really all people – have serious need for downtime, for contemplation or silence, times when nothing happens. We require reservoirs to draw from. That is the usual model. We in Social Media are sacrificing our internal time for the good of a public outlay. And it is fatiguing.

Commerce, Tech/nique and Soul

Let me take a different tack onto this fatigue. I was busy commenting in a fairly abstract way on some concerns about Google’s increasingly intelligent algorithms presenting content that we may want on Google Plus. You can see the process of my thoughts in the comments on David Amerland’s post on Complexity. What it seems I was working toward was an idea that I pursued a few years ago, that Social Media was driven by a Gift Economy. Gift Economies have a logic that is contrary to Market Economies and there is a fundamental tension, if not conflict, between them, I believe. What struck me was that Social Media Fatigue is a product of this tension between the two. What do I mean by that, in what way?

For Social Media Pros, but also for anyone vested in their social media there is always the question of intention when posting. Where is the soul leaning when completing what is sometimes a very complex task requiring many dimensions of your person (analytical, aesthetic, custom-following, know-how, etc.)? We have been gifted with increasingly adroit tools that enable us to inhabit not only multiple platforms – each with their own sub-culture of behaviors and aesthetic – but also multiple facets of ourselves. Where is our soul when pushing through these advanced techniques, all woven together quite productively though our various devices? It seems to me that fatigue starts to set in most for me when my attention is mostly on the technique itself, just getting or doing it right…(and right includes innumerable of aspects of me expressing values that are important to me and brand). The advance toward techniques are a kind of human/cyber interface, a technique of being-human that marries actual technical devices, user UI designs and techniques of ourselves. The tech/niques come right out of the commerce frameworks of the platforms we are negotiating and the designs that support them. We are using tools that we have purchased or downloaded and increased our speed and thresholds of interfaces to thrive on platforms that themselves are driving a competition to spread as fast (and as deep) as they can. It is a heavy sea. We ride and push through these waves and frankly it requires a great deal of concentration and harvested authenticity.

As we face the fatigue though I think many of us counter this tech/nique fatigue by finding within ourselves a genuine (or authentically discovered) enthusiasm for what it is we are posting. And if not enthusiasm, interest. We oscillate between a thorough engagement with the technology and techniques and our soul reaching out to the content in a kind of (perhaps only momentary) embrace.

We try to fight fatigue this way.

SMF - Social Media Fatigue

In this model the interest in content can be fairly rich. It is a personal reaction or investment in what is being shared, or what is being said, a connection that is being made, a feeling to what the topic is. We respond authentically, if not creatively to what Facebook calls analytically “stories” and to commentary, and we move between that spike in enthusiasm back into techniques, marking and positioning our way as we go. Sometimes techniques themselves even become the content and we get a kind of meta-pleasure of teching the tech, techniquing the technique.

But I think that we’ve got it all wrong. There is to Social Media a core dimension that honestly gets lost as we bounce between content enthusiasm spikes and the labor of tech/technique. Those two poles are really what the Social companies are all about. They are busy pushing our “stories” and their supporting techniques because these are what is measureable, and these are what they have designed for their own success. If our souls try to fight SMF by this dichotomy we will only be eventually be drained. What is missing is the thing that gave birth to social in the first place…genuine interest in others.

Think about this the next time you post something. Think about this when you exercise a technique that dovetails audiences or streams. Who or what are you caring for? Where is the focus of your soul? If you are feeling tired, if SMF is getting to you it is very likely that you have lost your interest in others and have been caught in a binary.

Each and every person we connect to is not simply a node, they are a fathomless beacon –  a beacon of something we can be. Be interested.

******

epilogue thought:

I think key to this is something I learned from my wife who struggles with mental training stuff all the time. She is a pro Muay Thai fighter here in Thailand, having fought over 50 fights she inspires me. Expectation is 80% of motivation is one of the mental training adages she thinks about. When we think to do something what we expect plays a large part in our disposition to do it. When we do things through our interest in others our expectations are quite different, much more potent and liberating than those that come from acting out of content interest or the pleasure and accomplishment of know-how.

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This is what is wrong with Triberr

What Could be Wrong with Binding Together?

It has been heralded as the great equalizer. Suddenly people with only modestly very high Klout can compete with the Big Dogs of social media by banding together in a tight circle of pre-approved curated blogging. Which is to say, we will all auto-tweet each other’s blog posts to our own followers. Suddenly, not only is my “check my post out” reach isn’t constrained by what meager following I might have, but amplified by to all those follower numbers in my circle. Banded together, we become a composite “impression” force.

This is what is wrong with Triberr. In a social realm, all we have is our reputation. But there are two kinds of reputations at play. There is a kind of “authenticity” reputation which is the real response I produce when my avi pic and tweets appear in the stream. It is the impression of my brand, so to speak. We want a high authenticity mark each and every time our profile floats by in the stream. This could be based in anything from our profile picture that has an immediate emotive effect, to the history of our past interactions, or the quality of our tweets. But there is a second, often competing reputation, and that is the reputation we have with other tweeters like us. There is tendency to need “status” and to mix with people of a perceived high class. This second kind of reputation can color the first, our group status can influence how people perceive our flash appearance, but the two are very different. The problem with Triberr is that it can significantly reduces the first kind of reputation (the reputation of authenticity) for the sake of the second.

This is my visceral experience when I see Triberr auto-tweet recommendations of others in their circle. These are often people that actually have a very high personal reputation with me. Lots of my best Twitter friends are in Triberr circles, in fact this post came from seriously considering the generous offer from someone I value. Through personal interaction I have come to both like and respect my friends in Triberr. But, and this is a big but, when that friendly face appears there, and I am draw to it for a micro-second, awash with a warm instinctive response of nonjudgmental embrace, I am suddenly dashed by the realization that this person is not there tweeting this. In fact, there is strong suspicion that this person has not even read the blog post being tweeted to her or his waiting followers. There is, and I can feel it, a devaluation of that person’s brand. Not because I don’t like them, or even respect them. It is because they are offering me under the guise of a social moment, a canned, impersonal communication about something that should otherwise be valued – a blog post. Over time I start to grow insensitive to this person’s tweets. I become conditioned to expect the commercial. The value this person worked hard, or even not so hard, to achieve with me such that in the stream I pick them out with confidence, is eroding tweet by tweet.

“Like tears…in rain”

Twitter is like this. No tweet generally matters. They are light. They nothing. Except in cases of close social interaction they just seem to vanish. But they add up. Over time the direction of their effect begins to accumulate. Either you are building value micro-tweet-moment by micro-tweet-moment, or you are eroding it. The problem with Triberr is that it is a systematic erosion of social value, quietly over time, traded for a status achieved within a tribe whose doors are closed. Everyone in the tribe cannot feel this because they have already established their affinity and respect for each other. The tribe contact just builds as everyone exports each other’s blog post titles to higher impression numbers. But Twitter is not insular. The reputation gained between us is at the expense of the value of your tweet themselves.

The hope of course is that in trade-off of the gradual devaluation of tweet recommendations among those that already follow you, and respect you, you instead are reaching people you could never have reached before. Triberr proudly calls itself “The Reach Multipler” as if it is some kind of reach machine. Suddenly your follower numbers are climbing. Your mentions are rising as is your Klout (!). These new people hopefully at some reasonable conversion percentage, will supplement the value you have lost elsewhere, but invisibly.

What is wrong with Triberr is that the important reputation, the reputation for genuine thought and engagement, is being traded in for the illusion of engagement. If six people tweet out my blog title I must REALLY be engaged, right!? Not at all. And over time people can tell. As I said I have people I really like in Triberr. But when I see their titles mutually flowing across my screen in auto-fashion, I have absolutely zero impulse to actually click on a blog title link. Zero impulse to read, or comment on what lay behind the systematic trolling for new followers.

I also have close people who I would in advance pretty much say that I would recommend their blog posts. @67tallchris, @ricdragon, @pegfitzpatrick are some. I stand by my friends, so I can see exactly what such an agreement seems perfectly reasonable to do. I would be just automatically doing what I would likely want to do anyways. But there is a huge difference. The value of my tweets to the people that follow me is – hopefully – that I have however fleetingly engaged with the material. My curation is a expression of the social capital I have established in piece by piece interactions. It is hand built. If I start systematically placing low-value, socially imitative tweets in my stream, I am working against myself. I am exchanging the coin that you and I have earned together for the chance to begin new connections with those I have not yet met. I am lowering the overall substance of my exchange, for numbers.

I have news, you already have enough followers! Do more with what you have, don’t trade “up” fast using the social currency of authenticity for the “stamp” of authenticity and lose something genuine. I know this won’t stop. The status gain and the number love is big in social media marketing circles. But at least it is worth saying.

Yesterday’s post likely contains some of the deeper reasoning against Impression-driven “reach” social media thinking.

Immunity and the ROI of impression chasing – social media small group thinking

How Social Media Might be “done” Differently

There have been growing string of posts and conversations in the last week. To catch people up and give context: here was my post on Sunday attempting to open up a conversation about how social media marketing talks about social media communities – in terms of language, vocabulary, concept – exploring how we might conduct social media planning in a new way a different kind of Social Media – finding a language. If you haven’t read it it is more about the comments which are a rich realization that there is a building consensus that this is a topic that deserves attention. Then there was Ric Dragon’s The Power of Small Groups in Online Marketing which raised the same question again, in the context of impression thinking – something that marks the advertising culture from which many of social media marketing concepts have come. And lastly there was my post largely devoted to a single comment from my first post by @Karen_sharp the stake holders of Social Media – into the web of relations. There the question grew more abstract, but perhaps also more concrete, as we tried to think about the real processes of speaking from “within”  social media that make it a potentially powerful tool.

The selection below is the bend in my thoughts that reflects more how Ric Dragon was thinking about things. They are from the Afterward of Malcolm Gladwell‘s classic The Tipping Point. I post at length here for those who have not read it, or haven’t read it in a long while. My wife who has been hearing me talk about all the exciting things we might be able to do over at Tonner Doll, who just read the book, insisted that I look at the passage and in fact read it aloud while we were driving to the store today, giving birth to this post.

The Immunity of ROI Impression Thinking

One cannot help but think about how right Gladwell is on email (though written in 2002). Email may have gone through something of a remaking since then – post Facebook, Private Messaging and Twitter developments – but the same challenge of immunity faces email marketers. A medium develops an insensitivity to messaging, such that only mass mailings or highly specialized targeting and sensitively crafted messaging succeed in reaching an interested party. As Gladwell points out, the ease of the connection, its expense, tends to dull the efficacy of tries.

In the new media basic metrics such as “followers” or “fans” and “RTs” I believe can become deeply misread when the medium itself is heading towards immunity insensitivity. The very “reach” without expense is the thing that actually should be telling us that these numbers are quickly becoming devalued at a rapid rate, especially within hyper-evolving platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Yes there are metric attempts to revalue basic numbers, to in an arms-race kind of way find the “social” part buried deep within quantities – Klout being an obvious example – but the truth is that with the entire insensitivity process the whole social media world is quickly becoming immunized. Case in point and a small divergence, we in #usguys just had what we call a #flashchat on WordPress. A #flashchat is a pseudo-impromptu wranglingly together of folks on Twitter about a topic for discussion. Afterwards we found out that this little chat reached over 1,000,000 “people” (so to speak). I’m sure not that the case at all because this is just a big impression stack. But I could not help but think in hearing this: these numbers are near meaningless. They have meaning (narrow use), but the effect of them us is way out of proportion. We had a very successful chat, fully of energy, information, sharing, but then the 1,000,000 number completely shaded the sense of the true impact of the event, even in my mind. It moved the gaze. Over all, stats are getting the people who should know better drunk.

What occurs to me is that even though social media platforms are becoming saturated. Even though RTs are now being automated into Triberr pods of mutual dissemination without “personal” recommendation. Even though the “social” part of real conversation is starting to be gamed into imitation by pros, the blog world over populated with shallow re-tread advice repacked into catchy blog titles over and over and over – this very building up of an immunity is the thing that is giving social media even more emphasis on real conversation. As “thinking” and “talking” are being harvested by bright ROI-hungry minds often far too enamored with Impression adoration, finding ways of bulk “talking” and bulk “curating”, when actual conversations are found, the more and more rare of real thinking and discussion, the face-to-face like intimacy of sharing and personal investment, this becomes the gold of social media, rising by the ounce.

Social Media Message Inflation

This is what the New Age Impressionists are missing. As you seek to engineer a systematic imitation of social, you are losing all your skills of having or discovering in a market real social production. Counting RTs and Impressions is like counting Papiermarks. The very ease of their production and reproduction creates “message inflation”. And your substantive conversations – either the ones you are having, or looking for – the real gold of social media networks, are being lost in the currency.

Beneath the Klout hikes and the so-called “reach” numbers, there is only one thing of value: What conversations are you having? What conversations are you finding? What conversations can you have? (okay, three modes of the same thing.) And if you are only having conversations with the same limited number of people, you have simply built a castle in which to could can count the currency you have printed amongst yourselves.

the stake holders of Social Media – into the web of relations

Conversations on Conversations

The last post opened up the discussion of how Social Media marketing itself perhaps needs a new language, a language of respect and honoring, if it is to take advantage of the full transparency opportunities that social media is offering. If we are going to attempt to have a “conversation” about the very nature of strategies of conversations, and also keep our eye on specific social media efforts, our vocabulary (and thus likely our concepts) have to change.

The response to this opening of the question was surprising and invigorating. Thoughtful comment after comment came, and the question itself seemed to have given rise to a stream of thought. I encourage you all to look at it. To give a role call: @ricdragon, @67tallchris, @pegfitzpatrick, @brainmaker, @GoSocialSA, @pamelamaeross, @Ken_Rosen, @coolaquarius, @lisat2, @JuanFlx, @trishabeloff, @SMSJOE, @MikeLehrOZA, @dabarlow and @Karen_sharp all came in with powerful thoughts and sentiments (hope I didn’t miss anyone, follow them all.). It was not the usual blog comment string, it seemed, but rather a building consensus around a very large idea, each person adding a substantive dimension.

I wanted to grab hold of one of the comments later in the thread, and only part of it. I have only now just met Karen – introduced by the inimitable @picsiechick – but her contribution, especial the aspect I’m focusing on, really seemed to take this question to a deeper place:

Karen Sharp @karen_sharp wrote:

Which brings me to my second thought, which is to return again to shared purpose. I think when we ask, with sincerity, what are our customer’s (stakeholder’s, co-investor’s) purposes, we see that people buy because they are trying to care for something. We are all taker-carers-of, even when we are simply taking care of ourselves; and our marketplace decisions are all based on the mixture of exit-loyalty-voice realities of our relationships with who and what we care for, and how we enact that care. I am talking about what traditionally gets called a benefit, in sales. Classical economics tends to “black-box” the consumer’s purpose, and tends to view the purchase decision in isolation from the web of relationships the buyer is invested in. But when companies sincerely and proactively become co-investors in the life and purpose of our customer, then we are effectively joining into a pre-existing relationship, the relationship of the customer with what he or she loves and cares for. Then once we are standing in a pre-existing relationship (and in a fundamental sense, we are always-already in relationship, there is no place as humans where we can step outside the web of relationship) then we have a new set of already-invested-in exit-loyalty-voice possibilities to ally with, not just invite. And when those shared purposes are sincere and authentic, then it’s not a matter of needing to control the social media message companies put out. (This does mean that using social media to whitewash (or greenwash) unethical or exploitative companies will ultimately fail. There is no place, out here in this ether of the web, where we can hide.)

If we are all on-purpose, then we’re all stakeholders. We are all taker-carers-of. read the rest here

What comes to my mind when Karen talks about the web of relations from which we are all un-free is the Archimedean point of objective power, when the Greek philosopher said that all he needed was a place to stand (external to it) to move the world. Perhaps that is the interesting thing about the question of a more transparent social media marketing approach. If we open ourselves up to the advantages of a public dialogue that honors the customer/user in order to tap into the great reserves of social media discussion, we surrender the seduction of this anonymous and “outside” place where want to stand in order to predict and control events. What Karen is pointing to (and do read her whole comment, as well some fine thoughts that followed it) is how social media resources are returning us to the awareness that we are all connected, and likely that at the most fundamental level it is our values (as persons and as companies/brands) that provides both the glue and the grease for all our transactions.

I love how Karen speaks about the pre-existing relations of a customer, and how social media is bringing forward the sense that when we engage a new consumer we are stepping right into the middle of a living investment web. We are entering into dialogues that have already begun, and in many ways have been going on without us. Taking stock of our own values as companies, brands or persons is definitely one of the hidden effects of social media, and why I have been arguing that social media has actually lead to much more ethical business practices where profits and right-doing and transparency come together.

The attempt to abstract the whole thing into data sets – and believe me I understand and actually appreciate this – to cut ourselves free from the web of relations is in a certain sense to lose out on the perspective of social powers that are at our disposal. As we move away from the personal understanding, towards the Archimedean one, our design and solution-seeking instincts change as well. Our literal powers of invention alter.

I’m not really arguing against the Archimedean pov. But right now there appears a divorce in the two ends. Abstract planning control, social swimming. If we are to really be amphibious I believe that we need a much more dextrous language, a way of moving cleanly between these two, and to do so more transparently with social “honoring” values. This concept base  is new. A different way of crowd-sourcing and crowd-connecting. But in a certain sense we have always had it. It is just talking honestly about our aims in a shared world, and finding the best point of co-investment and satisfaction. When we find that sweet spot, the place where values and conversation meets, the situation suddenly becomes creative and unexpected.

Let’s find a way to talk about the conversations and actions we hope to inspire that at the very least includes the values of those talked about.

a different kind of Social Media – finding a language

Where Language Leads we Follow

I’ve been considering the clash of cultures that social media marketing brings to the table. There is the community-first, relationship building,  conversation-driven culture of social media itself. And there there is the marketing culture that is conditioned by its roots in advertising with strong tendencies to depersonalize the transaction, to speak in numbers and the control of what is ostensibly assumed to be a deceptive/persuasive message. One taps into our deepest, surest human values (finding friends, sharing, a sense of transparency). The other tends to treat people as quantities or at best mere intentions or desires.

As these two cultures of community and commerce come together in the new form of social media marketing it strikes me that there is a certain challenge that naturally faces us. If social media is about transparency, and we are building business oriented social media groups based on principles of sharing, honesty and openness, social media marketing itself is in need of a language to talk about users and customers in a way that gives honor and respect. If indeed we are going to carry through the mission of social media to a logical extreme, people cannot simply be click-through-rates and cost-per-conversion. They cannot merely be “eyeballs” or impressions. When we talk about the success or the failure of a campaign, the implementation of a marketing strategy, it cannot be how many “sheeple” we caught or failed to pen. It cannot just be funnels, as useful as that analogy might be.

The reason I am thinking about this is not a case of conversion. That is, I am not just an evangelist who has been taken with a new way of thinking about persons and want to apply it everywhere, overturning tried and true truths of advertising practice. It is that it strikes me that there are some untapped and very interesting possibilities within social media marketing itself if our marketing brains can get to the point where we come to understand the process differently. One of these possibilities that is appealing to me is that of being able to talk openly (and analytically) about social media efforts themselves, amongst the business social media community, and harvest the collective wisdom and experience of all of us who are just setting out on what has to be admitted to still be an uncharted sea. And, in order to do this, openly, we must find a language.

When people quibble about words, they really are talking about mindsets, about concepts. But it is good to start at the words and work out because mindsets can be slippery and difficult to grasp at once. You change the words, and you change the concepts, slowly. I began discussing this with my friend Chris Porter @67tallchris. I was thinking about how to blog real time social media strategy as it is being planned and executed. The benefits of this is that my collection of conversation peers all can talk about principles and best practices in a way that actually are being done. A dialogue can develop between shared ideas, held-to principles and real social media actions. It was Chris that helped me realize that largely this is a question of language. In indeed we are to import the real values of social media building into the conversation about social media marketing, the way we talk about our aims and achievements needs to change and grow. If the benefits of social media transparency are going to accrue, gone must be the back-room talk of numbers and percentages alone. I understand vividly the desire to chase and numerify important things like ROI and conversion rates, but I am talking about another thing here. I am talking about crowdsourcing the conversation in two ways. And for that a language and set of concepts is needed.

Building A New Discourse

From my Skype conversation with Chris I moved to an informal Twitter chat on #usguys. Jacqui Kimmel @GoSocialSA and Trish Ableoff @trishabeloff both helped begin thinking about what these words or concepts might be. Where is it that community values and business aims touch, conceptually? What terms that are meaningful and respectful in a community translate well to the kinds of things we are seeking to achieve in social media building – notice, I am moving away from the term social media “marketing” here, already. A few words/concepts came to me on that Twitter discussion. “Satisfaction” is a word that seems to swim in both worlds. Customer satisfaction is a now well established concept – a concept, the Wanamaker origins of which Ric Dragon @RicDragon educated me on in a recent and very satisfying Skype brainstorm. And “satisfaction” seems to map fairly well onto at least the landscape of aims social media experience. It is not quite right, and we still feel that we are on the old marketing side because people generally are not looking for satisfaction per se when the participate in social media. There is something else.

Another term that appeals to me, and I have already been using it for a few months unconsciously, is investment. Investment obviously has its business meaning, but it also has strong sociological and personal meanings. We invest in each other. We invest time in things we care about. Investment seems to be a word that carries its meaning across both worlds. I think it is safe to say, for instance, that in social media management and strategy we want to inspire others to invest in our media, our offers, our services. But even more so, to invest in our community.

So what I’m seeking here is perhaps the concept of co-investment. We in business invest in others. Our customers. Our fans. And they in turn invest in us. Our community. Our offerings. Perhaps if we can talk about social media building as our co-investment, achieving co-investment, we are getting somewhere.

But this is just the beginning of the conversation. If we are going to be able to invent and evolve a different kind of social media, if we are going to create a new language and tool set for thinking out the problems and challenges that are unique to social media building, this is going to take a conversation. In fact several cross-channeled, cross-purposed but still dovetailing conversations.

For the pleasure of it, the etymology of the word investment:

investmentLook up investment at Dictionary.com
1590s, “act of putting on vestments” (a sense now found in investiture); later “act of being invested with an office, right, endowment, etc” (1640s); and “surrounding and besieging of a military target” (1811); commercial sense is from 1610s, originally of the finances of the East India Company; general use is from 1740 in the general sense of “conversion of money to property in hopes of profit,” and by 1837 in the sense “amount of money so invested; property viewed as a vehicle for profit.” For commercial senses, see invest + -ment.

Facebook Uniques in iFrame – Breaking out of the Bland Blue & White

iFrames and the Release from Facebook Monotony

Let’s face it. The Facebook monochrome has left us all bored. The recent incursion of ad margin and the photo strip top has made the Facebook page feel a bit cramped and even cluttered. The great redesign, while holding out the promise of much more company friendly spaces, has just not yet taken hold.

But there is another dimension to the new template in Facebook for companies which few have seemed to embrace yet – iFrame – and the potential here seems enormous. Unaccountable is the lag in taking hold of the big change in what Facebook is allowing businesses to do now. We have read almost nothing of its value in all the usual blog circles. We have seen no large brands take up this sudden freedom in Facebook design. In the fast-paced world of social media one would expect a door like this to be not only celebrated, but rushed through.

Dropping Websites into Facebook

That is basically what iFrame is: a website nested inside Facebook. Now separately hosted material with all the bells and whistles of HTML and JavaScript can be dropped right into your business Fan Facebook page as an initial welcome to non-fans, as well as a resource to your current users. I’ll discuss a bit of what this means in the broader scale farther below, but essentially most of the design achievements that allow dynamic and engaged experiences on the web now can be funneled down into the Facebook environment, an commercial environment we must all admit sorely in need of it.

There have been a few posts on how to do it. This from Hyperarts, and  Social Mouths had perhaps the best introductory version of these. And Mashable had this excellent lay of the land post about the change when the change came about. But largely it seems that the opportunity has not been explored. This post is about one such exploration, a welcome page designed for the Facebook page Tonner Doll Company by Deep Soni at Essence Labs. Tonner Doll is going through a complete redesign of their web presence and social media and this new Facebook Welcome page is part of it. They have a substantial and very active Facebook fan following, but the challenge is how to inspire these fans and collectors to connect more with other Tonner new media offerings (and a new website due this Summer), as well as to more deeply inspire the casual user who might happen upon their page. The business challenge in social media platforms, especially those as restrictive as Facebook, is how to funnel users to other platforms and engage ultimately in more a committed and meaningful investment. Each business has strengths that need to come across in social media. One of the advantages that Tonner Doll has is that its product is visually striking, how does one communicate that in the bland and banal desert of Facebook blue and white.

The answer really is: iFrame.

The Tonner Facebook Page: gamify the entrance

Deep Soni used Ajax and JQuery to create a dynamic interface that would really catch the eye, especially designed to pique the interest of users that it must attract if it is going to begin building a next generation of Tonner Doll collectors. The page comes alive at the touch of the mouse. What is central to this approach is the keyhole effect, creating the experience of a company’s world going far beyond the expected restrictions of what company Fan Facebook page can offer. For those of you who do not watch the little video discussion, or visit the page and explore for yourself, I’ll outline some of the innovative features the Tonner Doll Facebook page employs.

Most striking is that the splash page is mouse-sensitive and scrolls in all directions beyond the natural Facebook frame. This unusual movement and the grid space was pushed to a limit in this design in an attempt to gamify the site. We want users – even those who might experience a momentary orientation challenge – to feel the need to explore. This is a play and imagination company and so we brought unique dynamics to what can otherwise be a stultifying commercial environment. If Facebook has one challenge as it attempts to create  a business-friendly space, it is that it must provide a freedom of expression for businesses parallel to what personal users experience. IFrame is the beginning of that. The reason why the drab blue and white template of Facebook works so well for personal use is that it does not interfere. All the joyful status updates, friend tagging and party photo uploads stand out from it. Yet for companies this same feature of non-interference becomes dulling. Companies do not produce the same kinds of interactions that individuals do. Tonner Doll Company actually has a robust and committed Facebook fan base that uploads photos and comments daily, but the Facebook template has still remained constrictive. With iFrame a window is opened up, a large window into which one can pour endless ideas of design. Tonner Facebook page represents just one version of what can be done.

Perhaps the biggest result of iFrame is that products can now be shown directly in the Facebook environment. Rich photographs and quantities that could never have fit in the narrow margins now become scrollable and clickable to external website pages. Website funnels now reach well within Facebook and users have at their fingertips the full variety of not only product, but also a company’s social media platforms. Products can now be browsed and compared, and YouTube pages or blogs can have a strong and up to date presence.

Welcome non-Fans, Resource your Fans

At this time Facebook limits an iFrame welcome page to be set as the default only for non-fans that visit the page. This means that when a non-fan types in your Facebook page url or clicks over to it, they do not come to your wall where they encounter conversations or announcements they have little connection to yet. Instead they are greeted with a Facebook keyhole welcome page. Importantly this is a company’s first chance to capture the user’s imagination and create an affective bond. Immediately a user can browse aspects of a company, interact with the company message well beyond the static FBML pages of the past. As you can see from the screen shot above one is free to design navigation to pages within the iFrame (at top), but also to designate internal Facebook navigation to these same pages. An iFrame as dynamic and content rich as the Tonner example is something you don’t just want to offer non-fans. Fans can reach all of its features through the sidebar as well. It could be that Facebook would expand the default option to all users, fans included – one suspects that Facebook had some rather profound uses in mind when they opened their pages to iFrame for business  – but as of now iFrame acts in a dual fashion: it dynamically greets new visitors to your brand, and it establishes a content rich bed for tabs in the side bar.

Visit Deep Soni’s description of the Tonner Doll iframe design here. Or the page itself here.

coca-cola’s friendship machine meets the social machine

A Commercial for Friendship

It’s not really a viral video, or perhaps even an attempt at one [watch the video, it makes a difference]. Only 10,000 views in the first three days. It’s a conceptual video, and perhaps one that is aimed specifically at the kinds of people that would find this kind of thing compelling: social media citizens. It lacks the short visual “hook” that makes something viral. Instead it is a commercial, carefully crafted to persuade, to inspire. One of the largest companies in the world makes a kind of performance art piece representing its product, and produces a beautiful message cut right from the values essential to social media group making.

Mashable wrote about the video release, explaining the machine’s design:

Coca-Cola actually planted the machines in Argentina last August to celebrate International Friendship Day, but just this week uploaded the video to its YouTube channel. The machines appear to be about 12 feet tall and requires that you ask a buddy for a boost to use it. Coke rewards that bit of cooperation by dispensing two Cokes instead of one.

via Mashable’s article “Coca-Cola’s Friendship Machine Rewards Cooperation with Cokes”

This is what really fascinates me about it. Social Media values have begun to exert pressure upon corporate messaging, upon their self-branding, that pulls them towards an ethic that is different. Previously it was all about the product. Post-handshake and storefront, in the Age of Advertising this has been the case. Make an amazing product, show that, and nothing else matters. The “sell” was showing the product. And endorsements – from outright pitching to unconscious associations – were nothing more than 3rd party proofs of the quality of the product. This Coke machine does something else, a shift that is slight in focus but huge. It is no longer smiling people who are made to smile because of the product’s quality. It is rather people who are made to smile because of themselves, and the product is only an catalyst or even space for it. There have been themes of this in advertising for a long while, but never perhaps so explicitly performed. The machine is literally climbed upon bringing two people together.

The Art of It

This goes to some very admirable achievements in marketing built right into the machine itself. It is monolithic, imposing a 2001 like unreachableness, but it is also a lateral invite to people to join with each other. The great corporate logo suddenly becomes a jungle-gym, a physical puzzle game – given the right age of folks. The very size of Coca-Cola becomes playful.

I talked briefly about this with Stan Phelps on Twitter @9INCHmarketing and he pointed me to a Harvard Business Review blog post where Coca Cola spoke about a shift in marketing, surely something that this machine is part of. I quote somewhat at length for convenience, as it points us toward a philosophical shift in general: capturing expressions. Expressions are the new vital metric.

In the near term, “consumer impressions” will remain the backbone of our measurement because it is the metric universally used to compare audiences across nearly all types of media. But impressions only tell advertisers the raw size of the audience. By definition, impressions are passive. They give us no real sense of engagement, and consumer engagement with our brands is ultimately what we’re striving to achieve. Awareness is fine, but advocacy will take your business to the next level…

…So, in addition to “consumer impressions,” we are increasingly tracking “consumer expressions.” To us, an expression is any level of engagement with our brand content by a consumer or constituent. It could be a comment, a “like,” uploading a photo or video or passing content onto their networks….

[one strategy]…Develop content that is “Liquid and Linked.” Liquid content is creative work that is so compelling, authentic and culturally relevant that it can flow through any medium. Liquid content includes emotionally compelling stories that quickly become pervasive. Similarly, “linked” content is content that is linked to our brand strategies and our business objectives. No matter where consumers encounter it, linked content supports our overall strategy.

via: Harvard Business Review – blog

But there is something even more going on here beside just brilliant marketing, or a seismic shift in corporate strategy towards user loyalty. The machine – even if a ploy – captures something that is happening in the media that it is designed to thrive in. It speaks the language of community building that is binding social media communication together, and perhaps necessarily so. There is the sense in Twitter, or in Facebook that the vastness of these connections, these platforms dwarf us, and we needs the boost up from the person right next to us to make anything out of it. The Coca-Cola Friendship machine performs – even if for only the benefit of a camera and a YouTube viral try – the very mise-en-scene of social media itself, and it does it in symbolic and artist fashion.

The Gift as Essential

Not to be missed is that a gift results in any shared labor to use the machine. A second Coke is dispense. 1 becomes 2. For those that have been following our recent conversation on Gift Economy and Gift Economy logic in social media, it is no coincidence that a gift result is the outcome and focus of Coke’s social experiment. Note, Pepsi attempted to make itself the center of gift-giving in a very different, I would say less powerful way. Gift is the creation of positive debt that binds community together in a symbolism of surplus. The Coke machine becomes the locus for gift giving, creating a micro circuit that cements the brand as not only the goal, but the means and the space. That this is done for a 3rd eye, the camera, to be poured into social media platforms is really evidence of the intimacy of connection between Gift Economy thinking and social media itself. This is what is special about social media. It has created a powerful nexus of sharable affects under the distinct values of Gift Economy logic, and it is not completely clear if Coca-Cola is using social media here, or if social media is using Coca-Cola.