Human Perception – Intangible Yet In Control of Humanity
Since humans began walking the earth, how they perceive the world around them dictates the direction of humanity. In my opinion, it is very clearly Pavlovian in nature. When we are born, we have a default set of electrical impulses and chemical/hormonal responses that make up who we are. Once the process of pregnancy is done, we are then thrust into the world and from that very moment that we are born, inhaling that first breath of air outside of the womb, our senses are stimulated, taking input, processing it, categorizing it, labeling it, assigning physiological responses to it, and so forth. Life experiences and environmental influences, if even on a small level at first, start shaping our perceptions immediately and thus the process of environmental influence on our brains begins. This environmental influence is the foundation on which the building blocks of our perception of the world are stacked over time for the rest of our lives. Environmental influence and these building blocks are what you as a social marketer need to understand and have spinning in the back of your head when you are digging deep in search of that golden soft spot with your current and potential audiences.
Now, while I know that I geeked out a little bit in the first section of this blog post giving you all my worst impression of Bill Nigh the Anthropological Science Guy, my focus here is to help really break down social marketing in more cerebral scientific terms. After all, ultimately there truly is an equation for all this stuff. Can social media be broken down to a chemical/molecular level? Of course it can, just like everything else….I’m sure either way however, there’s a chance I sound crazy, and more importantly, I hope you feel compelled to question me on it.
I’ll now connect my science rant with the title of this blog post: Whether you want to call it ‘building positive brand awareness with conversation’ or ‘social media’, personally I think perception control through influence is really what this comes down to. We need to learn how to harness everyone’s perception by understanding how to influence it on a deeper level. We all want to tweet, syndicate, and converse. We all want everyone on the planet to follow our company and become it’s fan. The biggest problem however that execs have expressed concern about with social media is that it makes them feel like their company’s message is out of control out there in the interwebs. Understandable.
SM is a tad bizarre in that you need to be able to focus on celebrating and embracing it’s freedom and socialness while simultaneously keeping your company’s reputation and perception on the up and up which is done through SOME sort of control. I know most will wince at the thought of putting the words ‘social media’ and ‘control’ in the same sentence but I’m all about using a combo of understanding how the process of human perception and response can be exploited to get people to not just feel good about your company, but to feel even better about influencing someone else’s perception of your company; a much more valuable measurement.
So all those building blocks of perception I mentioned in the borderline mad scientist intro paragraph I whipped up at the top should be heavily regarded because they are moldable, morphable, and can be sculpted and shaped through all types of influence. Social media being no exception of course. The path to these building blocks is a good first impression created by their observations of your company on the various social platforms. Knowing your audience and where to find them in the sea of Twitter/Facebook noise is key. Once you have that nailed, make sure your content/tweets/positive customer engagements are happening publicly there for them to see. Those are good catalysts for these new potential customers to give you ‘access’ to molding their perception of you….letting their consumer guard down, establishing at least some initial trust, etc.
After you’ve gained that initial level of trust through your positive and targeted first impressions, maintaining that moving forward is key. As I sit here all day every day and watch my 24″ screen dedicated to nothing but streams of Twitter search word columns using TweetDeck, while my other monitor watches a few other tools, I am reminded daily about the importance of maintenance. While you can’t control what people are gonna say, you CAN keep tabs in realtime about the overall perception of your company or brand (we all know that already). Watching this stuff on behalf of (and sometimes in defense of after some bad PR) can feel like an overwhelming digital version of Whack-A-Mole, ensuring that you catch every bad piece of press to counter and every good piece of press to augment. I can’t reiterate enough the importance of making the maintenance part of your social media role an extremely high priority. If you do not, you leave the mercy of your company’s public influence to the wolves.