By Tom Radford, Director of Innovation
I read a post the other day on Facebook and the comment attached to it was ‘Please don’t like without sharing!’ This seemed a bit odd. I get the fact that people like to spread the word about things that they care about, but is there really any value to this guilt-programmed sharing? It’s like asking someone to spread gossip involuntarily for someone else’s benefit.
Here’s another example. Someone said to me that they get annoyed when their friends don’t read their blogs because that’s like saying that they put no value on the time spent writing it. And that’s not friendly. That, to me, is half about guilt and half about someone feeling sorry for themselves. Nobody should be obliged to read or share something…its value should draw them in, otherwise it is not performing. If flowers were grey with no scent, bees wouldn’t land on them. Are we supposed to feel sorry for the flower?
The point I’m making in my own roundabout way is that there is a culture emerging of people obsessed with the very act of engagement itself that is part corporate duty, part social expectation – like sending a thank you card after a wedding. They go through the motions every day in a ritualistic fashion, making sure they like the right things, retweet the right things, remember to comment, remember to favorite some stuff, follow a few people etc. It kind of reminds me of Mafia bosses who make a big show of hugging someone as if that means they won’t pop them the following week.
So many people in the marketing community are following the laminated sheet on their desk, ticking of the boxes; the Peter and Jane guide to looking popular. It’s farcical; it’s not engagement. It’s just a gamefied ritual that creates this illusion that you’re influential.
True engagement is involuntary, that’s why you can’t just cook up a viral. It’s based around a series of perceptions that take place at an emotional level, deep inside your mind in a fraction of a second. You can’t control your own engagement any more than you can live without food. That’s why you need to know what people want rather than what you perceive that they need. That’s why gamers and bloggers and such like are so genuinely popular on YouTube. They might appear to be doing rather banal things but ultimately, that’s what attracts the bee to the flower. It’s involuntary and instinctive. It helps you escape or elicits an emotion that is not forced.
So, please don’t instruct me what to do with your content. And don’t expect me to be impressed by your ritualistic robotic social media routine. Delight is an overused word I suppose but actually it’s quite right. Delight is surprise, it’s amazement, it’s wonder…it’s being impressed. Delight me with your content and I won’t have any choice but to be engaged.