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.


nesting and social media flight

Real Time Sitting With an Eagle (click to see)

I have to confess that I am absolutely fascinated with the 24/7 eagle nest cam put up by the Raptor Resource Project in Decorah Iowa. It garnered a great deal of attention recently when the camera placed in the eagle’s nest captured the hatching of a valued egg. So much traffic it crashed the feed, I believe. But it is more than this. It is a window into the real powers of social media in a number of ways, and I’d like to use it to bring out these often overlooked aspects of what makes social media go.

The first thing to note is how it bends time and space instantly, as soon as you click on the feed (minus the now-present ad). You are transported to an eagle’s errie, where even in the middle of the night you can hear the wind blowing, and see her feathers peel back from the gusts. I watched last night, and the transportive effects were strong. It was perhaps the most “ecological” or “conservationist” experience I’ve had through media, or perhaps even in the more or less Real world. The noble animal is right there with you. Her catch will arrive in the nest. Her feeding. Her fussing with the young. And all the interminable minutes that Herzog would love are there, unedited.

This is what I want to focus on. Social media is NOT about sharing the trivial. It is about recognizing that there is no trivial. Each and every life experience/moment has the potential of being an anchor-point for sympathetic identification. What social media does is pull life out from the peaks, and display it as narrative – a narrative in which the small can surprise as much as the large can. Yes, the feed crashes when the chick is being born, but really it is the thread of moments that are captured that makes this eagle cam tranporative.

Let me move a little bit deeper into this. Social media allows an affective transfer. That is, for a moment, a glimpse, I am able to FEEL what you or it is feeling. My body approximates this state. For that moment there is a bond, and an assumption of sameness. This is actually – I would argue in a different context – the basis of all ethical behavior, and even the sense-making we make of the world, but in social media it is the core substance of what is going on. It is all happening in an “information” environment, but social media is about leaving your affective fingerprints on every piece of information exchanged. The information has to be smudged, dirtied by our transfer, so people can FEEL where it is coming from. Every Tweet, every Facebook posting, every YouTube clip has the lived buried in it.

This is where the eagle cam is so remarkable. It communicates so many of the conceptual conservation ideas that the unintentional cruelty of the zoo is more crudely designed to bring about. Animals are said to be ambassadors for their species in zoos, and so often endure an unhappy jail just so we can experience them first hand and develop not only a knowledge, but an affinity for their kinds..enough of an affinity for us to be moved to protect them. In this case, this is accomplished with two tiny remote cameras, and far more intimately. The transposition of time and space is incredibly folded, and made dense. We are mapped, affectively, right there upon the flapping, wind-blown feathers of a she eagle. And we care. A multi-million dollar zoo edifice is eclipsed.

The Lessons for Business

So what does this have to say about business and social media. The eagle cam represents the acme of this affective representation. It is the economical, brief, elegantly simple, spectacular way in which people can affectively identify across species lines with something “out there”, as well as be fully absorbed by the concepts that surround the transfer. What business has to realize is that connecting to customers and users in social media environments has always to do with this affective end. We want people to feel our Real. To combine with it, to see it as Same. And this is done by projective narrative. The information we exchange always has to be colored by our values, and our experiences. Each node of social media communication is a place for others to create an affinity point. And when exchanging with others, there are two nodes for identification: you and your interlocutor (for a watching 3rd).

So should every business have a 24/7 web cam stream? Well, not really. But WHAT a web cam stream accomplishes forms one of the limits and aims of social media broadcast and conversation. It is the transportation of – not the effacement of – what is human in us, or perhaps even beneath that. It allows customers to FEEL what is like to be in trusted relationship to your company or business. As someone brought up in today’s #usguyschat, it is more about reef building, than going viral. And establishing points of affective affinity is essential to reefs of safe commerce.

The enormous nest, over five feet wide, is perched high atop a cottonwood tree near the Decorah Fish Hatchery. The nest is 80 feet up, making the installation of camera gear all the more impressive. In the background of the shot, viewers can see cars and trucks passing on a road far below.

Two cameras are attached to the tree’s limbs a few feet above the nest, equipped with infrared nightvision and the ability to pan and zoom to capture every detail, including the bloody food that the parents bring back to the nest. story

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.

Lebron’s old team, virtual morality and the golden voice

Morality Goes Virtual

I side-stepped the human interest story a bit for the larger picture of how YouTube and various other media present a tremendous amplification and proliferation of affect, the spread of human experience which works as a bed for moral reaction and action – I chose “moral” instead of “ethical”. It is worthwhile to point out the development in the story itself, as the formerly homeless man has been offered a job, and apparently a house.

Left homeless after his life and career were ruined by drugs and alcohol, Williams has been offered a job by the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and is being pursued by NFL Films for possible work. He and his compelling tale became an online sensation after The Columbus Dispatch posted a clip of Williams demonstrating his voiceover skills by the side of the road.

“This has been totally, totally amazing,” Williams said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, his voice choking with emotion. “I’m just so thankful. God has blessed me so deeply. I’m getting a second chance. Amazing.”

via Washington Post Homeless man’s voice prompts job offers.

There is also another story, closely related though not as sexy, that of the ex-wife that raised the children that Ted Williams abandoned in the abuse of his own life with drugs & alcohol, the deeper social context and consequence beneath the life-ravaged face of a man and the in-concordance of a mellifluous voice that comes out.  

The move of the publicly shunned Cavaliers not long ago left at the basketball alter on live television, makes this media story all-the-more interesting, and through it all the liquidity of his golden voice (each time I hear it) ribbons through and above. His voice, disembodied, expresses a hidden power within Social Media. A living line of affection, and the ability to transform.

YouTube and the advent of affect morality: watching a homeless man speak

via How A Viral Video Changed One Homeless Man’s Life.

This is what has changed moral effect in post-modern society more than anything else. The reach of television (news, documentary) in the 60s and 70s allowed it to a degree, but what YouTube video proliferation has done is present an infinite capacity for us to FEEL, to have the affect response, to endless situations as they persist in the world, be they profound like revolutions in Iran or Thailand, or homeless persons on street corners, or frivolous like cats jumping out of boxes. Watch this viral video and experience the affect of his voice penetrate you as a viewer. When he tells you that he was drawn to radio because a radio personality can look nothing like his voice, and he does this with his voice coming out a face that has lived a very hard life, you can feel the in-concordance of the situation itself, the in-concordance of homelessness itself.  What happens when media reaches deep into a place you would never wander, and pulls out the affects of the experiences occurring there, something radical has happened, and this is something to a degree and reach never before in the history of what is human.

Moral response consists in a circuit. It is the experience of an affectual state in another human being (or perceived to be living thing), as your own, but also to some degree causally linked to you. This is what has changed in YouTube proliferation, the ability for the mirrors of affects to have spread to every corner.

And for those interested in Social Media, affects are what seriously matter. It is the electric speed of instant communication of states, be they by picture or word, sculpted to the medium expectations that carry them.