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

[[First, we’re not sure if this ever saw the light of day and are publishing it simply for completeness’ sake (that’s a big thing around here, completeness). This post completes an arc started in The Lost Prelude to “Human Nature Meets Social Media – The Brain Science Behind Participation by Joseph Carrabis, DishyMix Guest Blogger”, followed by Human Nature Meets Social Media – The Brain Science Behind Participation by Joseph Carrabis, DishyMix Guest Blogger and Social Media: Exafference – Passive Participation (the “They’re Giving You Their Time” Part) – and Reafference, or Creating Active Participation. While we have your attention, you should buy copies of Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History because we’re doing all this resurrecting and publishing because of those two books.]]

So, distilling the 20+ pages of notes I made in order to answer Alex’s question, we tie it all together with some simple rules (bet you thought I’d never get here, huh?). These rules work in print, in text, in audio, video, rich media, poor media, social media, your choice…

  • When communicating to your audience and wanting to motivate them you must be motivated yourself
  • When communicating to your audience and wanting them to take action you must be active in the way you want them active
  • Be like Hemingway – keep it simple with as little embellishment as possible
  • Be confident – watch what you write, use as images, use as podcasts, use as video and make sure everything is consistent, not in the large but always in the small
  • Video/Podcasts – let your guests correct themselves, don’t correct them (unless it’s a glaring error)
  • Video/Podcasts – keep self corrections to a minimum (again, unless it’s a glaring error)
  • Video/Podcasts – when you become aware of an error in a previous episode mention it publicly and hopefully before your audience brings it to your attention
  • All forms – show concrete images, use concrete terms, etc., to cause people to take action
  • Direct Address – when asking people to take part make sure they know it’s totally up to them (taking part is their choice)
  • Direct Address – when asking people to take part make sure they know there’s no ongoing commitment on their side, they are under no obligation (this is a biggee as both research and business studies show people are more likely to take part in an endeavor if they believe it to be a one shot deal even though they usually habituate to the activity)

Further suggestions on this subject that are highly specific to social media can be found in my SNCR Awards Gala presentation (and don’t be surprised that the crux of encouraging activity on a social media site should involve common sense and good manners):

  • Give Credit Where It Is Due
  • Admit Your Mistakes
  • Manage the Discussion
  • Be Honest
  • Lead the Discussion
  • Explain Everything

There’s actually a lot more that gets into very specific areas:

  • Keep overt competitiveness to a minimum of at all on female-oriented social media sites
  • Demonstrate reciprocity on male-oriented social media sites
  • Demonstrate the actions you want members to engage in several times in several ways across several elements of the social media site
  • Reward employees for taking part in company social media activities (studies show such employees are usually happier and more productive)
  • There’s a wide variety of social networking factors involved (many of which I’ve documented elsewhere)

Let me know if there’s a serious interest out there and I’ll schedule a series of podcasts or webinars or some such that will cover this material. People who’ve seen my conference presentations know what those can be like.

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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.]]


  • 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.

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Human Nature Meets Social Media – The Brain Science Behind Participation by Joseph Carrabis, DishyMix Guest Blogger

[[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) The prelude to this post is in The Lost Prelude to “Human Nature Meets Social Media – The Brain Science Behind Participation by Joseph Carrabis, DishyMix Guest Blogger”.]]

I left off with some redefinitions based on reframes. This might be semantics to some and I won’t argue that, only offer that semantics is extremely important and increases in importance the larger the social frame in which statements, observations, etc., are made.

For example, I wrote “The reframe you want is ‘interactive members'” and offered that it is an example of part of the answer to your larger question. Both NextStage and related research has demonstrated that men and women will respond to that simple statement quite differently, different age groups will respond differently, different cultural groups will respond differently and, what’s the killer for most marketers, those responses will occur at a non-conscious level. People will have a positive or negative take on it, not even be aware of their own reaction yet act upon that non-conscious reaction as if it were stated fact. It doesn’t matter if the audience understands, accepts or shares the meaning of the language used in communication. We’re not talking about logic or truth. Especially when it comes to social networks.

Referencing my last post again, “The reframe you want is ‘interactive members'” is a male oriented statement, “The necessary reframe is ‘interactive members'” is a female oriented statement.

I can offer an in depth explanation why the former is male and the latter is female based on Modality Engineering if people want and the simplest answer is that the former establishes a linear relationship between me and thee, speaker and spoken-to. The former – completely without meaning to – will perceptibly raise people’s blood pressure, increase pulse and respiration, …, and those are just the macro sympathetic nervous system factors. Blood chemistry will change for all but a few people because adrenaline and a host of other proteins, enzymes and peptides get released.

All from a simple statement? Yes. That simple statement is hierarchical and depending on tone, situation, inference, etc., is adversarial. Use it wisely or not at all.

The latter statement does many wonderful things. It completely removes any adversarial aspect between speaker and spoken-to by removing “you want” as the action clause. It further supplies information without involving persons or personhood. And it directs attention to the transitive phrase and away from speaker and spoken-to via the adjective “necessary”.

I offer all this because it’s part of the answer to the larger question. The easiest way to get people to take part, to become interactive, is to demonstrate their value directly, is to make it obvious that the site owner/management recognizes them as “members” and not just an “audience”. This brings us to exafference and reafference, something I wrote about in Branding in Online Video. Online video and social media both deal with exafference – passive participation (the “they’re giving you their time” part) – and reafference, or active participation. How the two deal with exafference and reafference differs and the principles are the same.

The original question contained “…there are different reasons for contributing…” and listed several ways of contributing. Remembering that I suggest we invite members to add and share, we need to acknowledge that nobody does anything unless they feel safe first. Even people who routinely engage in risky behaviors do so because they feel safe in their own being (this is the “Twenty-One and bullet proof” concept young people tend to have)

So people become reafferent (interactive) when they feel safe first. Social media conveys safety by demonstrating it. People responded to Susan Bratton’s call for questions because they feel safe with her and via extension, with me. I’m benefiting from Susan’s reputation within her existing social.

People submitted questions for me to answer because they trust Susan to value their time, their input, their reputation, so on and so forth. This trust equates to safety in the guise of pleasure or pain on an interesting slider.

Pain to Pleasure Trust

I’ve written in several places that the brain determines trust and never distrust. People may say they don’t trust someone and what the brain is registering is that they trust that someone to cause them pain (and the implications this has for online and brand loyalty are enormous).

The core issue, though, is that safety and trust have to be demonstrated. Susan gets to demonstrate this by having you folks post questions and get responses. This is a demonstration to others that they, too, can feel safe asking questions and getting responses on Susan’s blog.

This form of reafference brings us back to “direct address” again.

(more to follow)

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dishymix guest blogger joseph carrabis answers dave evans ceo of digital voodoos question about male executives weilding social media influence on par with female executives

[[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.]]

Dave Evans asked:

I hear a lot about female intuition and influence, and about male command and control. As marketers transition from traditional media, which I’d consider to be control-centric, to Social Media that is clearly all about influence this discussion becomes more important. Given that are more than few female executives are running top-flight agencies and media units, women can evidently “learn” to operate quite effectively from a position of control versus influence. My question is “Will men be able to do the reverse? Will male executives be able to move comfortably into Social Media, where control is replaced with influence?

And I replied:

Wow! Great Question. Very perceptive. Truly.
Also quite easy to answer: No. Not really. At least not easily. Definitely no for the majority of American males. Probably also no for lots of British Commonwealth males. Asian males most easily. Southern EU males probably. Northern EU males yes and only with a little work. South American males yes and with some fascinating variations.
This is a really good question. How much time do we have for me to explain the easy answer? I had complete grad courses, master classes and post-docs that dealt with the roots of this question.

Now let me share the intriguing piece; there’s a whole class of American males that will be able to make this move without hesitation.

This is one of those questions with a core that touches so much of what’s going on today. Why are GM, Ford, etc., losing business and closing plants? See the above. Why are EU based car companies (even the ones that are subsidiaries of US companies) surviving? See the above. Why do Americans donate organs at 28% and the French at 99.9%? See the above. Why is determining proper marketing resources allocation so difficult? See the above.

I know I wrote a minor thesis in answer to the previous question. This question is much richer and really deserves a full day to explain in detail why the “easy answer” is what it is.

If anybody’s interested, let me know.

I wasn’t satisfied with my answer to Dave Evans’ question. I believe my answer was accurate and verifiable, what it lacked was actionability and the thread of understanding that I so love weaving into my explanations. People who’ve seen my presentations and such would agree (I hope) that I provide take-aways, things participants can do to get real results (actionability). One of the things I hold myself to is providing both theory and application in an explanation. Also, I tie lots of disparate things together so that they make sense. One student wrote an evaluation of a seminar I gave and included “…you’ve got to hang in there until the punch line. Some other things that Carrabis comes up with can seem absolutely dotty in the beginning. You may have the urge to throw up your hands, walk out and find somebody who makes sense. Some of the folks in the last class did that. They managed to miss some of the most mind blowing educational experiences they could have had.”

Whether due to jet lag, a chocolate-beer-wine high (I wrote that response while I was in Brussels on business) or whatever, my response to Dave wasn’t a completely satisfying one to me and I’m notoriously hard to please.

So please allow me to provide a follow-up response to Dave’s question. It’s going to pull from a bunch of different disciplines (I am Joseph Carrabis after all. If I answer a question without involving half a dozen disciplines people will think it’s not really me responding) but how else can it be thorough?

Let’s start with the idea that men and women think differently. If you disagree with that premise you can stop reading now. The question becomes how do men and women think differently and how does that difference affect things like cognitive, behavioral/effective and motivational (“{C,B/e,M}” for short) demonstrations and methodologies.

Males in our society and up to about the mid-1990s pretty much dominated the “hard” sciences. The reason for this goes back to the cultural cues we gave boys and girls up until the last quarter of the last century. These cultural cues can best be summed up in a couple of simple statements; boys usually had to “prove” things, girls didn’t.

This “proof” took the form of what behaviorists call “dominance games” and it’s why boys got into fights more often than girls (with all due respect to the recent YouTube girlfight videos phenomena). The {C,B/e,M} reinforced by dominance games was something already well prevalent in western society and is demonstrated by the majority of governments and very definitely in US courts — the adversarial system. Someone is “right” because they have the most money, most influence, most votes, etc. This may seem like Dave’s “influence” proposition and I offer that this is not the case. What is happening is what’s called “coherence”, not influence.

The difference is critical to answering Dave’s question and the surrogate questions that fall from it. Coherence is a logical construct. Things cohere because the mutual benefit is increased control (using Dave’s term) of the whole and recognition of individual control elements (we know who to blame when things mung up). Pieces stuck together allows action on one piece to control direction, acceleration, velocity, etc., of all pieces via that one piece unless sufficient social or mechanical force is applied to break the “control” piece off. Coherence is lost in these cases. Examples of this kind of decoherence are well known in the be-all and end-all of boy’s dominance games — military science. The extreme hierarchical system of control and coherence — the “chain of command” — means that by taking out individuals closer and closer to the top of the hierarchy greater and greater decoherence occurs.

Note that there is not influence as I understand Dave’s use of the term. Influence recognizes that one or more pieces might go in completely different directions than the “control” piece because the relationships between the pieces are tenuous (from a physical mechanics perspective) and based on mutually beneficial relationships (from a social perspective).

Women have traditionally been taught to use a different strategy called (surprise!) “correspondence”. The principle difference between the two is that coherence is a logical construct, correspondence is an ecological construct.

Correspondence (surprise! part 2) gains its power via its ability to influence change (and this is what I think Dave means by his use of the term) rather than create or direct change (the coherence methodology).

Ecological constructs may have hierarchies inside them (food chains, for example) and even when they do there’s a much higher degree of balance (think of a wind mobile) involved. Food chains can’t have pieces of the hierarchy removed because ecological/environmental destruction ensues (think of the over-fishing of the oceans, destruction of the rain-forests, increasing rates of species extinction, …). A wind mobile with a single element removed just clatters in the breeze, the balance that created the sensoral harmony is gone.

And if you’ve intuited that this ecological construct, correspondence, is based on, uses and creates relationships, you’ve already figured things out. For the rest of you, please hang in there. We’re getting close to the punch line.

Each strategy is useful in certain arenas. Correspondence allows for distributed action, mutual acceptance, group loyalty, … — the things that traditional women’s societies are best known for. Coherence allows for quicker action, surgical action, directed response, … — the things that traditional men’s societies are best known for.

With this informational foundation we can really get interesting. Ecological constructs are highly adaptive. This is the “Life will out” syndrome. Given enough time, life will return to any environment regardless of how much destruction has taken place. In many cases, life will adapt itself to thrive on the destruction to bring the environment back to some kind of recognizable ecological balance. These highly adaptive systems are highly adaptive because they rely on heuristic calculations rather than statistical calculations (what? You thought I wouldn’t get math involved somehow?). (Not a plug coming up, just part of the explanation) NextStage’s Evolution Technology does what it does by using statistical methods when there’s enough data, otherwise use heuristic methods.

What’s the difference? Statistical methods will determine an optimal solution, heuristic methods will determine a best outcome given the existing data. Optimal solutions are only optimal when well defined outcomes exist. Heuristic solutions are the best possible outcomes for everyone/everything involved in the process.

The biggest problem with statistical methods is the gi-normous amount of data necessary to truly determine optimal solutions. Very few companies/agencies/individuals have enough data to determine optimal solutions yet they still use traditional statistical methods and fail as often (or close to as often) as they succeed. Very few organizations use heuristic methods (I’m not even sure organizations know these tools exist).

What’s amusing about this is that a traditional scientific axiom — Occam’s Razor — is actually a heuristic. Occam’s Razor instructs us to go with the simplest solution when in doubt. This is a restatement of the “fluency heuristic” that instructs us to go with what we know rather than what we don’t. Our minds are wired to accept as simple those things we already know or have in consciousness.

What comes to the surface in all this is that women are allowed to use heuristics and men are not. Women can say “I felt like it” or “I thought it was right” and have it accepted as a reasonably response both by other women and by men. Men usually do not have this luxury because their cultural training is coherence, not correspondence.

Correspondence, by the way, along with the heuristics that power it, are what is sometimes referred to as “intuition” or in this case what Dave calls “female intuition”.

So will the majority of men be able to move into relationship marketing? Not unless they’re ready, willing and able to consider heuristic business models and up until about 1990 our society didn’t allow for it. Are there any males in business that can make the switch to relationship marketing? Yes. Quite specifically those who ascended a business hierarchy by “going with their gut”, ie, intuition.

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