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Facebook, twitter, internet radio – I love all that stuff. The interconnectedness, the interdependence: I find myself fascinated by how these online communities grow and change, both in themselves and how they change us.
I’m not the only one of course; An earlier post on the dharma of Facebook generated lots of interest. Maybe Facebook and Twitter are one big interactive sociology experiment; one megabrain that arises from us and is both more and less than us collectively. As Bugs used say, “mmm, could be!” And maybe not.
But I’m also fascinated by how and why these spaces or entities are funded. Because no one works at Facebook or Twitter just for hte fun of it. They are not volunteer-maintained. Companies are spending a LOT of money to invest in and exploit social media. It’s interesting to see how consumption, consumption, consumption is driven in social media.
I read MediaPost.com, for the heck of it, and this recent blog post caught my eye.
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Ripple6 is a Gannett company that provides both publishers and brands with a range of social media tools. For Proctor & Gamble’s Rouge Magazine site at www.rougemag.com, Ripple6 built a closed community (“The Salon”) where invitees from the P&G mailing list could converse about beauty regimens generally as well as a specific product P&G was promoting. One of the aims of the project was to find advocates and activate them outside of this closed community.
According to Ripple6 CEO Sang Kim, a number of analytic tools can be used to identify potential brand cheerleaders. “What was cool is that one of the things you could see was peer helping,” he says. “Someone would say that they had tried something and it didn’t work, and then someone else would chime in and say that they had experienced the same thing and here is how it worked better for her. That is clearly an advocate — someone who doesn’t just say this is great but actually shows you how to get greater value out of the product.” In other words, the conversation revealed a behavioral gesture the brand would want to enlist: the propensity to reach out and advise.
. . . Once an advocate has been identified, simply slamming them with messages or product to spread around is a mistake, Kim finds. “You really need to embrace them and communicate with them first.”
In a closed or branded community, the advocates can get special access to the product and the company. Then you can give them the tools to recruit. In the case of the P&G program, “it was a very explicit viral program. The goal was to actually have the advocates bring their [external] network into the community.”
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So “peer helping” doesn’t just have karmic benefits, it seems. It has measurable monetary benefits to advertisers, as well. And being able to measure that impulse is an expertise to be sold.
Altruism, or compassion for another suffering human who just can’t get that damn exfoliator to work, makes one an effective shill to drive consumption. People who can measure your altruism can sell their services.
And don’t think our every click, our frequency of interaction, our time of interaction — every move we make on FB isn’t being measured. It doesn’t matter if they can’t tie an activity to a particular person. We are a herd, being observed. I don’t particularly think this is evil, just very interesting. What to do with knowledge of the herd? Shall we sell it more crap or share the dharma? Very interesting to see how every action, every impulse, is not what we think it is. My impulse to help another might just help destroy the planet. Whoops, there goes that interdependence again!

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