Social media in crisis: 3 steps to turn the tide

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2011/04/25 · 18 comments 11,277 views

in a dos and don'ts,e marketing 101 social media trendwatch,social media diary,white papers research

Anita Komarowski started a discussion in our Xing group on Social Media Monitoring entitled, Are people too lazy to read? The intention was to get some ideas about and possible solutions for this challenge.

Below I share three trends and tips to better master the current crisis in social media.

Attend our virtual workshop on 2011-04-26:

    1. No pain, no gain

A recent study shows that we can improve learning with an intervention that costs little money or effort to implement. We just need to change a document’s font. Diemand-Yaumana, Oppenheimer and Vaughan (2011) used university and high school students in various subjects to test whether the font of a document helps or hinders exam performance.

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The field test revealed that high school kids reading material in difficult fonts did better on regular classroom assessments than their randomly selected counterparts who read the same material in easy-to-read fonts. This does not mean we should print things badly! And by the way, handing out illegible material will get your students complaining right away to your face or in their end-of-course evaluations.

Instead, we need people to be more thoughtful readers. This is an issue across the Internet; people re-tweet a story with a link to an article without checking for accuracy and quality beforehand.

    Tip 1: Knowing that using illegible font improves learning is one thing, but today’s savvy internet reader is unlikely to be willing to suffer that pain for a gain in learning.

Resource: Diemand-Yaumann, Connor, Oppenheimer, Daniel M., Vaughn, Erika B. (January 2011) Fortune favors the bold (and the italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes. Cognition, 118(1), 111-115. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.09.012.  Retrieved January 31, 2011, from

    2. Repetition matters

Seth Godin’s own work illustrates that doing less might be better than providing a lot of depth. The sheer volume of information represented by generally short treatments and stories encourages overly rapid information inhalation.

In fact, we may find information faster, but it is often rather useless. Moreover, the same stories are now re-distributed by many more people. Unfortunately, repetition creates the illusion of truth. A page’s relevance is determined by how many other relevant pages link to it, which is not truth. What I see is the potential to ultimately destroy diversity of thought.

    Tip 2: To get the task done, focus must be achieved internally. Being able to ignore distractions from external knowledge (e.g., searching the Internet) is critical to achieving independence and substance.
    3. Be nice and the masses will follow

For centuries when people wanted to persuade, they have gathered a crowd and made their case through rhetoric inspiring to those in attendance. The web makes it possible for a speech to go viral via YouTube, boosting the author’s book sales, generating new contacts and bringing in new consulting contracts.

People spend increasing amounts of time on the Internet, but their demand for conferences and talks is growing too. Giving a short, eloquent speech without going into too much depth means it will likely be shared by many over the Internet.

Being controversial or challenging myths is useful, but avoid criticizing people’s thoughts or claims directly. The masses do not want to invest too much effort to respond to any given challenge: they hope the presenter or ‘guru’ did their “thinking outside the box” for them.

    Tip 3: All things being equal, two-minute videos are just long enough to inform and explain, but short enough to maintain impact and people’s interest.
    Bottom line

It is difficult to keep people entertained on Facebook in the B2B (business-to-business) sector when they could just as easily visit their friend’s page, with nice pictures of people and their favorite cat. For many, the sad truth is that how it looks matters most, while content quality ranks a distant second.

Moreover, the Internet is such a time-waster that we barely have enough to reflect. Unfortunately, the greatest challenge is to ask the right question.

While some have suggested that one must actively engage in discussion with others to gain insight (i.e. you improve understanding by following the train of thought or argument of another), the Internet, social media or email may not be that helpful, because their fact-floods distract from discussion.

We must evaluate the credibility of facts and keep them separate from quasi-facts, which requires time and effort fewer and fewer people seem to have or be willing to give.

Please share and let us know what you think in the comments!
TipClick here to find more content on social media trends on ComMetrics.

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