What’s behind our urge to share on social media?

Most of us take Facebook at, well, “face” value – a social network that “connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them,” as the site itself says. But peel back the façade of friends, likes, photos, apps and more, and you’re left with an extensive data set on human social behavior that intrigues scientists and psychologists alike.

From CNN’s first-of-its-kind list of “The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers” to AllFacebook’s more recent post on “7 Facebook Personalities to Avoid” and even Vanity Fair’s take on “The Six Most Common Personality Types on Facebook,”  it’s clear that we’re fascinated by the fact that human interaction has migrated online, and that it’s able to be observed so easily within the Facebook microcosm.

Consider this: Each month, more than 845 million people record and share intimate details of their daily lives, relationships and online activity through their friend connections, messages, photos, check-ins, and clicks. Couple that with predictions that the number of active Facebook users will reach 1 billion in 2012, and you can’t help but ponder the common thread that unites approximately one-seventh of the entire world population, inspiring them to share so freely and publicly.

Well, according to several Harvard University psychologists, there’s a definitive reason behind why we like to reveal our thoughts, views and opinions to friends, near and far. The research, which was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences by Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell of Harvard’s Department of Psychology, even went as far as to claim that humans devote a surprising 30–40 percent of speech output solely to informing others of their own subjective experiences.

Why, exactly, are we compelled to do so? The act of disclosing this information about ourselves actually triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain that are activated by fundamental rewards such as food and sex, according to the study. Throughout the course of their experiments, the pair even found that some of the participants were willing to forgo money in place of disclosing information about their personal experiences!

Tie this back to us and our use of social media – and Facebook, in particular – as PR professionals and marketers, and we can get a much better idea of how to use these tools to connect with (versus broadcast at) target audiences, encouraging them to raise their voice and join in the conversation. And the more we practice this golden rule of social networking – keeping it about “them” not “us” – the more mutual success and satisfaction we’ll find in these relationships, both online and off.

How do you feel about sharing online, and do you have any particular best practices to share regarding personal/professional content? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

“New Marketing” and “Social PR” are Simple. Talk With Me.

I constantly see chatter, blogs, articles and tweets out there about “New marketing” and “How PR works – or if it’s even necessary” now that social media is so mainstream, easy and accessible. Oy, I am so tired of the misconceptions that social media has somehow replaced these important roles in business. But I’m even more tired of everyone over-thinking this whole “new marketing” thing. Is it really that complicated? Here are a few quick “rules” to it that I think anyone can grasp:

- Social media is a tactic tied into a larger communications strategy. Key word: strategy. Have one. Actually, have more than one, because it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that there are different communications strategies across different parts of your business. Communicating with customers about a service issue is not the same as trying to sell to a prospect or get the attention of a journalist. Make social media a part of how your business communicates. But don’t tell me your “social media plan” replaces solid marketing and PR.

- Marketing has changed in that marketers (and others, like politicians) now have to talk with their audience, not just at them. One of my favorite quotes on this is from Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff in the book Groundswell: “Marketers don’t understand channels where you have to talk and listen at the same time.” That was in 2009, and I think that while many marketers are now understanding that they need to be on social channels, they still don’t know how to start actual conversations that lead to valuable interactions between their business and its audiences.

- New marketers (and PR execs) make their audiences feel important. You can only do this by building a two-way relationship. That means that you listen as much as you “talk,” even when the “conversation” gets uncomfortable (i.e., complaints about your business or products). Be prepared to handle both your brand champions and your detractors – but always let them know how important they are by talking with them. Ask questions, recognize them, make it clear in your content (Twitter updates, Facebook posts, videos, what have you) that you’ve listened to them. Need an easy example? Think Old Spice. People watched, listened, shared because they were a part of it – feeling important and recognized – even if but for a second.

- Share great content. You’ve heard this a zillion times -  but maybe it’s more important to say share interactive and meaningful content that others will want to share as well. Oh, and it should be relevant to your business, whether it’s meant to be a revenue-generator, a branding campaign or simply an awareness builder. A favorite example of mine is Life is Good Radio. It’s sticky content that ties in perfectly to their culture and company mission. If you don’t know how to build good content, get help. Seriously – without it, you are not marketing in today’s world.

- Remember, it’s not that complicated. It’s just changed. Quite simply, you can’t dance if you don’t stop leaning against the wall hoping someone will talk to you. You have to start the conversation. If you don’t know what this means, you probably shouldn’t be in marketing in the first place.

What are your best tips for “new” marketers and social PR?

Seeking PR Influence? Read. Share. Think. And Make Your Own Rules.

This past week I participated in our Founder, Christine Perkett’s (@missusP) ReadyTalk (@RTWebSem) webinar titled “PR Experts as Influencers: How social media has changed the PR landscape forever – and what it means for you.” She discussed the importance of PR professionals using their connections, relationships and influences to help positively influence others or drive awareness (or directly drive customers) for their clients. Also, she shared the ins and outs of how any brand—personal or company– can adopt and achieve value in social media effectively. In Christine’s words: Successful PR is all about you.

Some insightful points I noted from her webinar:

  • We’re tastemakers — we’re all consumers who help dictate styles and trends. It’s important to share your brand experiences (positive and negative) in a way in which you can also share insights for other brands or clients. Turning your experiences into a helpful marketing or PR lesson helps raise your profile as a smart marketer and brand influencer.
  • Read every single day. Then use social media (ie: Twitter, Facebook, etc) to show your community what you’re thinking. This will help elevate your expertise in the areas in which you specialize. Don’t just share links – provide commentary on each piece.
  • Don’t ignore the opportunity to build your personal brand because it lasts forever — it’s like a live resume.
  • Be authentic — there’s tremendous opportunity via social media to “do what you do and do it well” – that is, showing reporters, clients, prospects that you are paying attention, engaging, and have valuable insights so share.
  • Speaking of sharing — make sure to tie in business marketing or PR lessons to elevate content and position yourself as a smart marketer. You want to be an influencer not just a participant.
  • Make your own rules — social media provides a great testing ground because everyone is exploring. Encourage your company or clients to try some innovative new marketing or PR ideas by testing the waters yourself. Post a thought provoking question that you know will spark debate. Write an unexpected blog post. Involve customers in a marketing campaign. Take some chances and share what you’ve learned to encourage your marketing team to innovate.

After the webinar, I started really thinking about Christine’s thoughts — about how convoluted PR and social media have become (and how much it doesn’t have to be). PR isn’t changing — it’s already changed. And will continue to change. Social media has the power to drive authenticity and build brand loyalty, but you need to fully understand how to effectively use social media as a PR tool — a communications tool. Bottom line: PR and social media need to be giving a lot of strategic thought. They don’t just “happen,” at least happen well, by signing up on a popular network. And a PR agency with the know-how, skills, and proven success is just the thing to assist a brand in doing so.

And then I made a connection.

I immediately thought of a company I “liked” and have been following on Facebook for the last few months after reading a feature article on Boston.com. This brand has not only enthused me daily, but has been one of the most creative fashion brands I’ve seen on Facebook — EmersonMade. As stated on her Facebook page’s company overview: EmersonMade offers a one-of-a-kind and compelling shopping experience that believes in celebrating the uniqueness of the individual, the joy of being alive and all the smallness that makes up the Big Beautiful.

And the brand delivers just that.

 

If social media is an opportunity for a company to break the mold and create unique content (content being the key) — EmersonMade achieves this. She makes her own rules. Her updates are interesting, fresh, and relevant. She has tapped into what her followers want and keeps doing it. From Facebook to Twitter to her company blog—she not only leaves me wanting her beautiful products, but I always find myself marveling her creativeness, thinking, how did she come up with that?

And there is absolutely no comparison with big fashion brands like Zara, BCBG, Madewell (to name a few). Their approach is, well, boring. They seem to not understand that social media is not about how many fans you have or just showcasing your products — it’s engaging your target audience. Not in an average way — but in an ingenious way. A way we have never been afforded until now.

Christine’s final words of her webinar have stuck with me: Be an innovator. Thinking outside the PR box. Adopting social media in ways to support innovation. Trying new ideas. Taking a chance and making it pay off because as Christine stated, this will lead to greatness.

So my fellow tastemakers — what are your secrets to influencing your social communities? Do you have a favorite brand that nails it? Or is there a brand that you wished could give you more? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And thanks for reading!