Social is Irrational

November 30, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Posted in Other | Leave a comment


One evening, there was a debate going on about a marketing video that I made. This video was was passing the final “audit”, so to speak.

There were two opposing sides to the debate about whether this video should go up or not. One side argued against the funny approach the video was leaning towards: “This video is too confusing; trying to promote the product and being too funny at the same time. It’s taking the viewer through a pointless roller coaster ride”

The other side then said: “That’s exactly what we want to do, take them for a ride. People want to be confused – it creates buzz and drama. Social is irrational that way.”

That statement struck me. Hard. It made think a couple of things. One is to question my job choice, since I’m hopelessly logical to the point of naivety.

The other reason is simply me asking myself: Does succeeding in social require a certain sense of illogical madness?

Is Social Irrational?

Thinking about this statement for a minute, I could see why it makes sense. If you look at the trending topics and videos online, it’s very hard to discern a pattern on why it’s trending. Case and point: if a video of a cat jumping into boxes can reach 4,000,000+ views while even the most crafted of marketing videos struggle to get that high, that says just how randomly intricate the human preference is.

Now, I think that most people can admit to being irrational to at least some degree. So which motivation triggers rationally and irrationally? I’d argue that we can look no further than two things we do everyday: buy and share.

The “buy” vs “share” scenario:

The traditional scenario of selling something to a customer/making them do something, it has, until now, been a binary concept: buy or not buy. It’s a simple switch in the brain that, although based on a million factors, boils down to whether they have a reason to buy the product enough or not. Selling something then involves satisfying enough of these factors to switch from not buy to buy.

Social though is based on another level of human behavior. The choice is no longer binary – it becomes a much larger question.

A simple example:

You see a product online being offered for a discount. Decision to buy – Yes/No.
That ends the binary decision. But, with the tools available today, the choice becomes wider.

You see an option to share this deal with a friend.
There now comes a ton of reasons on why you would choose to do so, not all of them personal.

For example.
1. Am I willing to promote this company?
2. Do I have a friend who would want this?
3. Do I have the time to share this?

Just when you ask these three questions, sub-questions already appear:
1. Why am I willing to promote this company (for free)?
2. Who do I know enough to bother recommending this?
3. How useful will this information be to that person?

See the transition? It transformed from a simple yes/no answer to a complex decision, simply because it involved entities other than the person him/herself. It’s not about the notion of “me” anymore, but “them” as well: what their preferences and motivation are.

So, I do think that social makes the decision irrational. This however, questions why companies pay good money to social media people in the first place. If a click on a video, status update or a tweet doesn’t mean that people will necessarily net a profit, then why do companies still have to go social?

My answer? Social is to connect, not to sell. It just so happens that connecting to people often leads to that sale.

(How irrational of me.)

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