People win friends. Business win followers. When we´ve sorted that out, let´s put on the nerd glasses for a while and have a look at what business folks need to understand in order to thrive (start thriving?) online. There´s fundamentally only two things to keep in mind – but mastering them is both an art and a science.
Are there any ghosts? Is love a neurological firework? Yes.
The mind is the filter through which everything we percieve or experience is sorted by. The mind is both a very unromantic nature-thingy called brain (neurobiology, dissections and icky stuff) and a very romantic culture-thingy (memes, learning and odd human pursuits like hope and happiness). It´s all a matter of perspective. Thus, the wisest approach to online branding and communication is a holistic or integral one. Balance the mechanics with mythology or, more precisely – balance interest and excitement.
From a mechanistic point of view: yes, it´s possible to predict, measure and manage both interest and excitement. To learn the more scientific approach to interest, head over to Johan Ronnestam and learn AIDA for the digital age. It still rock, it´s just the playing field that have evolved a bit – especially since the introduction of online social interactivity.
The noble art of telling life from death online
This new part of the Internet is sometimes referred to as the live web. Is there a dead web? Well, try having an intelligent or empathic conversation with a search engine or the average corporate web site and you might learn a new distinction. The web as we´ve known it since it´s invention in the early 90-ies is as dead as a library, a building or an amusement park. Don´t get fooled into believing that everything has to be alive for people to love it and make an impact in peoples lives. That´s a common and forgivable missconception amongst people who´ve seen the light in social media.
A thrilling movie, an iPad or a buzzing city is of course dead as the dodo, even though it very likely lends some of it´s grace from the people and conversations that inhabit it. However, the success in terms of it´s spread between minds of people – it´s memetic potential – is totally dependent on the same two factors. To whom is it interesting and exciting (psychographics). From there you need to flesh it out – how do those people get to know about and experince it (AIDA) and how well is the communication specifically designed to trigger the maximum amount of interest and excitement to those people (psychological charge)?
#winning followers and influencing people 101
Let´s skip the specifics (psychographics, targeting and design, see above) and get right down to it. The way to be interesting is to give, give and then give a little more. Besides the obvious which is giving of your insight, information and bag-of-fun, you better start giving attention, appreciation and acknowledgement to others right away. Remember, if your a business – you won´t get friends, but you will get fans and followers. Think like Google – if you get the opportunity to talk or listen to inspiring people, share it with the world. Online video (integrating text, video and conversation) is a great way of sharing interesting stuff from your world. Learn from the guys behind Social Video Production, who really walk their talk (you might also need to learn to use Google translate ;-)
So, having taken care of being interesting, how can you add being exciting? Remember that being exciting is not necessarily being ad agency-creative sexy – it can also be midwest church-goer decent or spa retreat neo-hippie harmonious or related to any other psychographic segment. Well, the trick is to first of all start thinking in psychograhics rather than demographics or any other ill-informed way of making strangers out of your fellow men and women. And the best (as in sustainable) way to do that is to be true to your brand, wether it is actually you or the spirit of your business.
Ooops! Did I just hear you saying ghost?
Well, yes. A part of thinking in terms of psychographics is actually to use your right brains ability to look beyond the nuts and bolts of, say, an iPhone or a can of meat and start connecting the dots into a bigger picture. A very helpful way of doing that is by studying the insights of Joseph Campbell about how we tend to more or less unconciously create stories out of our perceptions and populate them with archetypal characters and human growth situations.
<photo © 2010 Mattias Östmar | more info (via: Wylio)
Another very helpful way to get your head around this thing about being exciting is to study spiral dynamics – a theory of human development introduced in the 1996 by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. They base their popularized version on the social psychological research by Clare W Graves who was a lesser known colleague and friend of Abraham Maslow´s (the guy with the pyramid, you know).
But that´s a bit geeky of course. Being exciting is actually all about having the guts to communicate cleary your values and beliefs. Why does that demand guts you might ask yourself? Well, as you might notice – the better and more honestly you do it the more pissed of at you people holding other values and beliefs will be. The upside is that your like-mindeds will get inspired by you. And that´s the whole secret behind when businesses like Google, Apple or Harley Davidson kicks ass. And when they fail – get their asses kicked the hardest from their own fan base.