Humans are social creatures: We like to help one another and feel we are part of a community.
The plethora of thoughtful, informative customer reviews on websites like Yelp, tripadvisor, and Amazon may appear puzzling at first. Many of the reviews surpass being simply helpful; they are invaluable resources when shopping online. More importantly, these unsolicited reviews illustrate and reinforce fundamental principles of society.
Like Foursquare, Amazon has a badge system to reward Top Reviewers. But climbing to the Top 500 Reviewers list or being added to other users’ Interesting People lists is the only compensation (save the Vine product testing group).
One must register in order to publish a review. It takes a good half hour or more to compose one of the above caliber. Compensation is a tiny virtual badge. Why do we bother?
Social Psychology | Why We Share
Humans are evolutionarily motivated to share information primarily by the desire to help their friends or network. Second, sharing or recommending a product/brand serves to establish oneself with certain values or associations; it reinforces one’s identity. Robert D. Putnam touches on this idea of social capital in Bowling Alone.
Lucky Charms is a favorite cereal of mine. It’s the white version of Count Chocula (my true favorite cereal). Count Chocula was one of General Mills’ monster-themed breakfast cereals (first released in 1971 with the strawberry-flavored Franken Berry). Chocula is difficult to find nowadays, especially outside of the Halloween season. I still enjoy my Lucky Charms, though. (“Gotta have my Pops Charms!”) The last supply of sugared oats and marbits that I purchased had a wonderful kids back-of-the-box activity:
The Power to Fly activity:
Fold the book at line A to make the launch ramp that will send your star marbit on its way. Flicking your star is allowed to see how many times you can follow Lucky through the cloud.
In this digital age, Lucky the Leprechaun believes he can entertain kids by asking them to cut out a piece of cardboard from a Lucky Charms cereal box, fold it, and flick it into the hole in the box.
To gain the Power to Fly, kids do not need their parents’ permission to access some promotional URL. They need not dig through the lightly sweetened for a compact disc which must be inserted into a computer. All they have to do it cut and flick. It is so refreshing. (Note: luckycharms.com does have an online game, but that is necessary for this brand with its demographic and competition. I have no qualms.)
Brand conversation listening is important (obviously).
But simple, vague advice like “Listen to the conversation around your brand” and “Join the conversation” is inadequately qualified. I can find eggheads on Twitter who’ve tweeted these very platitudes. Without explanation, they’re worthless.
“Join the conversation” has become my cringe phrase of choice, replacing my favorite Sarah Palin gems “maverick” and “reign in spending” and “shore up.” Well, maybe those are worse.
A brand that eavesdrops and replies to the most insignificant mentions interrupts the consumers’ conversation, instead of politely jumping in where it is useful. This is where social media becomes a time suck. Plus, actions speak louder than words. Imagine a nasty tweet about your brand from a Twitter complainer who has a major sense of entitlement post-this crazy time of brand democratization. You must be able to differentiate the bitching from the truly problematic:
Services that simultaneously post updates to multiple social media networks have become more popular. The first time I took issue with this was when LinkedIn added the ability to copy Twitter on a status update, and enabling vice versa by adding the hashtag #linkedin to a tweet. Some people abuse this: LinkedIn is simply not Twitter. The only updates on LinkedIn that you should duplicate on Twitter are few and far between. One acceptable category is professionally related posts, e.g. conference or event information/learnings. However, as wildly insightful and disruptive I felt my tweets at the last Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association (AiMA) Email Marketing event were, no one on LinkedIn would want to see ten tweets within two hours about email marketing. Further, Twitter jargon pasted onto other sites can lack translation and context:
Check all those social sharing boxes and disperse your status with SEO greed — I will unfollow you. Remember that social = human. With all the noise, why follow one person on six networks if this social superstar carbon copies even half of their posts? I know Dino Dogan says content isn’t king. But shouldn’t it be?
The reason different social media platforms exist is that each offers a different experience, and the parameters for participation vary. The expected candor on LinkedIn differs from Facebook. The demands of my beloved Twitter are greater (and arguably more challenging) than a blog that has free reign on length. Twitter is more forgiving about punctuation, spelling, and abbreviations because everyone understands 140 characters is limiting. Actually, this makes Twitter harder and more fun. Economy of words is powerful. If Twitter ever increases the character limit, I will quit. Besides, we have found ways to get around it. For example: