Social Media: Exafference – Passive Participation (the “They’re Giving You Their Time” Part) – and Reafference, or Creating Active Participation

[[This is a resurrected post from another blog. We’re ressurecting it because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and the other blog is kaput. By the way, you should also get a copy of Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History because he likes royalties.
PS) This is the third part of an arc that started in The Lost Prelude to “Human Nature Meets Social Media – The Brain Science Behind Participation by Joseph Carrabis, DishyMix Guest Blogger” and continued in Human Nature Meets Social Media – The Brain Science Behind Participation by Joseph Carrabis, DishyMix Guest Blogger.]]

Recapping…

  • Getting people to move from exafferent (passive) to reafferent (active) social media involvement has to do with fair-exchange. Fair-exchange means the site owner/management has to take a “personal” stake in building and maintaining the relationships that are the core of social networking and social media usage.
  • The nature of our species is that once women feel safe in a social network they will add content more readily than men will. One of the principle aspects of this safety is that women will generally feel safest (nonconsciously, anyway) in a woman-woman network than in a mixed gender network.
  • People become socially active in proportion to their recognition (and the type of recognition they receive) in a given social group (network). This means site owners/management need to demonstrate that each person in the network has value to the network. There are an incredible number of ways to do this and which ways to use are dependent on the type of network, its purpose and goals. Note that the purpose and goals to members may be (and usually are) quite different from the purpose and goals as defined by site owners/management.

I was going to start this installment with a description of “direct address” and I saw that Susan Bratton was already there. Her Rally for Suz: Help Me DOUBLE My DishyMix Audience [[Thankfully deceased]]blog post is an excellent example of direct address; simply stating what you want. I wrote in The Stephane Hamel, Susan Bratton, Eric Peterson Convergence and more “Thoughts on Blogging” “Direct address is something NextStage and others’ research has indicated is a powerful motivational tool in social networks — simply asking people to take part. Works 99.99999% of the time and is an element of what NextStage talks about in “Using the 10 First Contact Marketing Messages” [[Check our Training Schedule to learn when this class will be offered. Make believe you’re voting in Chicago, check early and often]]. This is also something that shows up in NextStage’s Principles as “People who don’t ask for what they want deserve what they get.”

One of the things NextStage’s tools can do is determine when “direct address” should be used in marketing material, on websites, videos, speeches, in trainings, whatever, to reach and motivate audiences into action. Direct Address can take the form of text, music (anybody who’s been in a gym club aerobics class has heard someone’s best attempt at using direct address music (and often without knowing what it’s really about, sad to say, hence with mixed results), or audio (listen to a well crafted political speech (regardless of language) or a “motivational” speech (ditto)), visual/video (some of the best examples I’ve ever seen are the plays/movies of Neil Simon and David Mamet. Another excellent example is the Peter Falk-Alan Arkin version of “The In-Laws”). You can read an example of using sonic (sound, music, audio) direct address at The Investors Heard the Music [[one of the sections in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History and you should get a copy because J never lets up on this]]. The best use of direct address is with a mélange of all forms, just make sure that mélange is highly orchestrated for effect. And of course I’m limiting this discussion to a western cultural audience.

Direct Address works so well because it’s part of our evolutionary history – we’re designed to communicate directly with each other, in person. The advent of exafferent communication methodologies (print, radio, video) means we had to learn ways of communicating “direct address” when we couldn’t receive the other person’s response cues (we didn’t know how they were interpreting our message).

What did we do? We went back to our primitive origins. Think back to prehistoric images (prior to writing forms regardless of their usage), things like the Trois Freres and Lascaux paintings and their counterparts worldwide. There are no images of thoughtfulness, of “sedentary” acts. All depictions are of action. Flash forward to TV commercials when TV was young. Did they want to sell you a washer? Then they had a spokesperson showing you how to use the washer. Later on they thought they were becoming more sophisticated and they didn’t show you mom washing until near the end of the commercial. First they showed you kids and dad getting dirty.

Today we applaud and honor witty and cleverly done commercials and I always wonder “What were they selling?” If the average exafferent participant can’t figure out what the commercial (print, audio, video, whatever) is selling within the first ¼-1/3 of a commercial’s run time or scan time then the marketing message is lost.

Fortunately direct address is done fairly easily and in many obvious ways (I’ve demonstrated several examples at eMetrics, IMedia and other conferences). Examples of direct address are well documented in studies of verbal signaling, directional processing, cognitive distancing, …, things that psycholinguists and semioticists deal with daily. You can find them used in law enforcement, security work, litigation, interrogation techniques, most investigative work…and successful marketing practices.

(I often get a kick out of audience reactions when I demonstrate that interrogation techniques are simply an intensified form of marketing practices, or that the most prevalent form of direct address that most people are familiar with in modern society is pornography. Does interacting with pornography cause a reaction in you? Welcome to direct address, the act of getting you to respond whether you want to or not. (and I’m not justifying pornography, only recognizing it as a cultural phenomenon and influencer))

My next post in this series will share some of the simple and easy to follow rules for getting people to participate in social media that fall from everything we’ve discussed in this thread so far.