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.

the “living entity” of corporations & the life blood of social media

Myth 5: “Twitter is a tool for egomaniacs to tell people what they had for breakfast.”

CEOs tweet to give their company a more “human” face. Jobseekers use Twitter to see who’s hiring and get a better idea of the “personality” behind the corporation. Twitter helps turn your corporation into a living entity for prospects to connect with.

via Lone Wolf — Top 10 Myths About Social Media in Business.

Warning: a bit of a historical and philosophical detour, first

Famously, and to some infamously, corporations were awarded “person” status under United States law. As told in the Left-oriented film The Corporation (starting at about the 4:55 mark of the clip), corporations entered their modern American form via the power of the liberties affirmed of freed black slaves (“persons”) in 14th Amendment, in a series of court interpretations that ended up granting legal “person” status to corporate legal entities. Not only were freed slaves afforded the protection as persons, so were now corporations under the same reasoning. In a sense one could say, and perhaps by some coincidence, one form of the national economic engine (the cheap labor of slaves) was replaced by another (shareholder protected assembled business interests, betting on the future) under the rational of a single amendment. The film makes a bold attempt to leverage this personhood metaphor and legal fact into a trope: that corporations in all their artificiality are actually “psychopathic” persons, persons with absolutely no moral fiber or social value, no interest in anything other that of shareholder revenues…the kind of person that you really wouldn’t want in your community. Chomsky, who is one of the more famous/controversial forwarders of this view, traces this concept of corporate rights philosophically to Neo-Hegelianism. As a Spinozist social media ethicist (is that what I am?), I have a stake in this philosophical corporate inheritance, but I come to different conclusions than this group. Spinoza was perhaps the originator of corporatism, certainly as it appeared to Hegel, and in fact lived in the city of the rise of the international power of European corporations the Dutch Golden Age, at first as a business man running his family import business, then as a craftsman who sold his lenses, and then perhaps even as a mathematician of insurance actuaries (as a few of his collaborators were). This is to say, as a Spinozist, I have a slight appreciation for the “personhood” issue of corporations.

Okay, back to social media and the friendly corporation

Let’s take as our starting point the Chomsky extreme that corporations are at bottom and essence only greedy, soulless entities looking to churn out as much profit for shareholders has inhumanly possible, not caring how much destruction, or crushed lives they leave in their wake. Monsters of consumption and death. Spinoza does have an answer for this picture that I will not go into – and I certainly resist arguments of ideology – but it largely consists in the notion that informed greed actually leads you toward caring more and more about what you are affecting, and what is affecting you, not the opposite. But let’s start at the psychopath and begin thinking about Twitter (or blogging), for corporate entities. Why do they have such a hard time figuring out what to put in their Twitter accounts and blog posts? It is because there is a culture, a culture of pursuit that makes people engaged in business feel that the ONLY thing they should be thinking about, worrying about, is profit. And that public relations somehow consists in tricking others that this is not the case.

The interesting thing about social media is that in social media genuine interest in others or subjects is a little hard to fake. It is exhausting pretending to a be a real human being if you aren’t one. Social media is made up of thousands of tiny communications, most of them truncated conversations, that are so minute, so fleeting, you can’t really fake the investment in any effective manner. That is why Google search is giving so much weight to social media lately, its inherent limitation of fakeability. You HAVE to find a passion, and a human ballast to all your social media communications, or they simply will not grow and take root. You have to care (at least a little).

So I’m going to grant that perhaps historically corporations indeed did have something of this churning, impersonal, consumptive, deceptive element. Its selfishness has been built into the Law, and the rise of broadcast media indeed allowed them the liberties of controlling their public image through large scale campaigns, hiding motives behind slogans and images that you can’t easily forget.  I’m going to grant that.  There is a lot to talk about because corporate history is not just a story about Ford or IBM, but let’s leave that as base or a tendency within corporate behavior. What is interesting is how social media is forcing corporations (and business entities of every sort) to responds AS PERSONS to people. It’s not just that they have to pretend to be people, but rather more that the persons within business have to connect their real lives, their real affective lives, to the “living entity” (as the Lone Wolf blog post talks about) of the business itself. The “stuff” of business is becoming personal.

Perhaps the Age of the a-Social Corporation has ended and a new Age of the Corporation has begun. I’m not saying that corporations are inherently benign. I’m saying that they are becoming more affectively connected to all of us, and that this will be having an effect on corporate culture itself.

Why is it so hard to blog or tweet as a business?

It may be because we aren’t used to letting our businesses be an expression of who we are. The craftsman ideal, the notion that what we build and how we build it is a direct expression of our character, is the only way forward for business social media. An interesting thing happens when this is perspective is  adopted. We begin to  feel that we are responsible for what happens “out there”. It’s not just our peers who judge our successes by industry standards, but in fact everyone we effect. There is a kind of ethical straightening that occurs when we are what we tweet or blog ourselves as business, when or what we ate (?), what fills our mind in an off-hour, what news peaks our interest is important to what we sell or produce.

fluffy social media words and the OODA loop

New Loops

Matt Riding’s @techguerilla – guest blog posted over at Amber’s new site Brass Tack Thinking, talked about his struggle with fluffier of the Social Media terms that seemingly have to be used to communicate it’s message, an excerpt of the opening paragraphs:

I have an aversion to “fluff”. I don’t mean that jar of creamy marshmallow awesomeness that sometimes sits in your pantry, I mean those words that get thrown around that sound great but rarely contain much actionable value.

Social Media gets far more than its fair share of this type of language, and that’s to be expected, after all a big part of social media is about relationship building. Where relationships are concerned words like “significance”, “harmony”, “trust”, “being real” are par for the course. But when I write them (and I do) a little shiver goes down my spine and I can feel the bile rise in my throat. My body reacts as if I’m a lifelong vegan who has decided to shove these words made of cow parts down my gullet.

Are these words really ‘bad’ however? Do they really only contain feel-good rainbows formed from the glitter ashes of old hippies? I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the issue isn’t the words, or even the meaning of the words, but rather how they are applied to an objective.

from Fluffy Words Are Bad, Mmmkay? (Or Are They?) | Brass Tack Thinking.

Matt and I had a brief back and forth in the comments section, mostly me trying to get a point across regarding how businesses regard “control”, one that he likely already agreed with. My general thought was that while it might be effective to tell business that Social media is merely giving business a new method to achieve old aims, it is deeper than that and that Social Media business prescription is about excavating many of the old assumptions of the values implied in business, and thus the aims of those assumptions. A lot of this has to do with how culturally we have come to think about top-down control, and they way we esteem it.

What came to mind for me in terms of the shift in how we think about control was John Boyd’s OODA loop, a model of cognition that has had great currency in certain business strategy quarters, but has perhaps even greater application in Social Media marketing contexts. Here is the OODA loop wikipedia entry. For those who don’t know – and this post is mostly for you – John Boyd has become something of a think-guru for some, largely because he brought Japanese business models and ancient Asian military philosophy to bear upon what many would consider the most result-oriented, top-down industry in the world: the United States military, and he did so in a way that emphasized information processing and the articulation of technologies. His relative success there gives his ideas a certain impressiveness, an aura, when talking about things civilian. I’m not a Boydist by any stretch, but I do think his model extremely illuminating.

There are many aspects to John Boyd’s approach to warfare, most of them having to do with increases in feedback speed and decision making in the age of information processing. Boyd was a fighter pilot with supposedly an incredible kill-ratio, and he felt that dexterity and rate of feedback was key to winning in the theater of war. A nimble, more lightly armed fighter jet was preferable to heavy, powerfully armed fighter jets. Beneath Boyd’s recommendations of de-centralized, loosely organized, mobile units of action in communication (much of which has been adopted by the new military), is a more abstract concept of cognition itself, what he called the OODA Loop. What is interesting about this model is that it is easily extended beyond the person or animal (organism), into technological interfaces or social structures and organizations. It allows us to trace the circuits of observation and decision that make up effective action.

It is not a be all and end all concept, but rather in Social Media perhaps a helpful concept base, or model by which to illustrate how important “inter-action” is to business.

I offer here only the briefest summation of what essentially is an elemental picture of the world and selves. Above is a simplified version of the OODA loop the fuller version of which is found at the top of this post.  For those who would like to look at a more in depth presentation of the loop for business Henrik Mårtensson’s blog, Kallokain, which has an excellent overview of the main OODA principles involved as they pertain to business. I would love to discuss this model in terms of Social Media itself and all the internal dynamics it proposes, especially the cultural ones, but for now this post is mostly a cursory one of introduction for those is unfamiliar with Boyd’s loop, and perhaps a first exploration of the value of that model for Social Media business thinking.

What is helpful about John Boyd’s fighter-pilot loop is that it is continuous. All cognition, whether it be business corporate structures pursuing market share, or an amoeba scooting along towards a sugar solution, comes down to this circle of observation to act and back. One could easily call it the  Circle of Life without much exaggeration. What this means for Social Media in business should be apparent. Social Media connections are an increase in speed, breadth and if properly run, cycle between the businesses informed decisions and its living environment (customers, cultural event contexts). Boyd felt that the faster the cycle can be completed and repeated, coupled to the depth of its comprehension and review, the more intelligent and aware the agent became (and therefore more self-determining). Domination of the theater was not the domination of sheer, applied power, like big guns blasting. It as a domination of awareness and maneuverability, being able cover more ground, more quickly, with greater flexibility.

What Social Media for business implies is a whole different set of eyes, sense organs, that can be plugged into the decision cycle. Unfortunately you cannot just connect up a different mode of sensing and expect to be able to suddenly “see” with it. Many of the processes and values that may have worked well under past modes of business command and control maybe obsolete or antithetical to the fine tune of what one is perceiving in a social media context. And this is where John Boyd’s OODA loop comes in handy. It lets us know that whatever we were doing (successfully or not) has ALWAYS been composed of OODA cycles. And that the new interconnections with the commerce environment are merely changes in frequency and modes of observe, orient, decide, and act. This though can involve serious changes in the culture of how we process information, self-reflection on our assumptions about how we can control our outcomes, and the acquisition of new habits of orientation and decision making.

When we talk about the changes in our behaviors towards customers or users, the language we use that evokes a change in method or even principle, it may help to grasp at a larger more conceptual level the advantages that are offered by the new media and new technologies, as well as better position the kind of revolutions of value that we have to undergo in order to most take advantage of them.

Next: what the OODA loop means for the “social” in Social Media, what happens when your customers/users are already in social media loops such as facebook or twitter?