Social Media Is About Perception…Changing Our Vision

Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu Social MediaThis post is by guest blogger, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu, (Twitter, @mediasres) the Director of Social Media for the Tonner Doll Company. We’re celebrating our 3rd anniversary of this Twitter chat as we explore Social Media, Perception and Organizational Decision-Making this Friday, July 20th, at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT on #KaizenBiz.

In Social Media everything is about perception… but perhaps not in the way you think. Counter to the Marketing and PR “message control” approach to Social Media, what truly is radical about Social Media is that businesses have now a new way to perceive and this changes what they are and possibly influences how they make decisions. This new perception gives them insight into not only the World but also their own place in it. The challenge is how to become aware of this mode of perceiving and incorporate what is seen into new decision making processes.

Organize and organism

There are close conceptual connections between “organize” and “organism” and it sheds real light to consider our enterprises as living things. Living things have an inside and an outside, though the boundary can be subtly blurred. One of the most distinguishing characteristics of any organism is how it perceives the world. For instance that shark can smell blood kilometers away, or sense electrical pulses up close says something about sharks. Bats are both blind but can “see” flitting insects. Perception goes a long way in defining what an animal is, and what is possible. So any business that wants to understand itself needs to take stock in exactly how it perceives, or more specifically orients itself to the world around it.

What are the organs of perception of your business?                      

An important conceptual analytical tool in this question is John Boyd’s OODA loop. His Observe Orient Decide and Act bears close resemblance to the Kaizen PDCA Shewhart loop, with notable differences. Boyd’s OODA is a consciousness and strategy model that allows us to read businesses as if they are living things seeking to constantly orient themselves more quickly in ever changing environments. The OODA loop in a fuller schematic looks like this:

OODA LoopEssentially it is a feedback loop wherein an individual seeks to identify features and patterns in its environment, and to adapt its orientation as quickly as possible to changes, going through its loop faster than its target environment is making changes. It’s staying ahead of the breaking wave.

Speed of Feedback

One application of the OODA loop that perhaps appeals most directly to Social Media marketing is his emphasis on the speed of feedback. Rather than seeing Social Media as a new channel for company message, it is perhaps more enlightened to understand Social Media as a new mode of perception for a business, a quick-pulse, quick-twitch sensitivity that gives it striking new powers of knowing where it is and cues on how to proceed. Community managers and their spaces are no longer just low-end Customer Service features but have become human hubs of brand intelligence. Self-organized consumer consensuses – whether they be found in data or expressed in conversation – become real-time tea leaves to be read.

The problem with new sense organs though is that you can’t just plug a new mode of perceiving onto the old architecture without potentially causing a fair amount of confusion. One is ever in danger of overreacting to, or more usually censoring out completely the new information. It has no natural place in the modern Marketing business model. Its speed of awareness, the very proximity to the customer or user, do not fit easily into the time frame of long campaigns, or company customs of self-perception. Things can happen in minutes, or days in Social Media and those events can be large windows into a business’s environment and markets, keys to possibilities or dangers not otherwise seen.

Q1 If we think of your business as an animal, how does it perceive its place in the world? What are its organs of perception?

Q2 If Social Media comprises new organs of perception? How does it challenge the way business used to see? What is new in what it sees?

Q3 If Kaizen is continuous & gradual business improvement, how does the speed of Social Media enhance that?

Q4 How does the speed of Social Media perception and decision pose difficulty to Kaizen improvement?

Q5 If your company adopted a much faster decision cycle do you think the role of Social Media would be increased?

Q6 Community Managers are a new hybrid which speaks and listens as the brand. Has their position in the decision process changed? 

Q7 What business decision-making roles are most resistant to taking advantage of Social Media perception? How do you bridge this gap?

Q8 If you could imagine a business that is born with strong Social Media perception, what would it’s decision-making process be like?

About the author: Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu, currently based in Thailand, is the Director of Social Media for the Tonner Doll Company.  Interests include Social Media ethics and designing social spaces; he considers his work in Social Media an expression of his study of Spinoza.



How Marketing Frames Perception

TED talks are fascinating moments of ideas. The speakers often pull ideas from different disciplines to present their findings or a theory about the world. In a recent TEDxAthens talk, Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Olgivy Group, presented his thoughts about how “Perspective is Everything“. His basic thesis is that our perspective, how we see things, is much more important the reality of our lives. He goes on to say that when we feel a sense of control, this perception really determines how we see reality. The facts don’t change, our experience of the facts predominates.

“The power of reframing things cannot be overstated.”

Reframing is the practice of taking the experience of a situation and changing the description so it feels different. For example, you might experience buying a new laptop as expensive but change the experience so it feels like an investment.

Marketing is often about telling a story in a particular way to reframe the specific product so it seems more appealing than its competitors. A great example is Febreze, a household odor eliminator. In their most recent US marketing campaign, they create a situation where people tell the story of what they’re experiencing until the blindfold comes off.

We are led to believe that the people think they are experiencing someplace lovely. The intent is that we become impressed with the product’s ability to mask and/or eliminate foul odors. While there are other products that do also mask or eliminate odors, marketers want us to have a psychological shift here.

“Hidden shallows”

In Sutherland’s talk, he reminds us that our perceptions frame our interpretation of reality. He says, “Impressions have an insane effect on what we say and what we do.” This seems in synch with Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink in which he proposes that we make judgements in a very rapid fashion. So, are we really operating off of our cognitive biases? (Cognitive biases are distorted thinking patterns that cause perceptual distortions, inaccurate judgements or other irrationality.)

Marketing and the message

If perception is how we make decisions to a new product or continue our consumer relationship with a particular company, marketers have to understand where psychology and economics intersect. Cause marketing is one way that a for-profit company can introduce the perception that its products and/or services are better, It goes beyond “I just bought a widget.” The reframe the customer has now is the feeling that they are getting something more. They not only bought a great widget but they did some good in the world. They perceive that they have created some change in the world by using their money to buy that particular widget. Some will even pay a premium because of their perception that their money is doing humanitarian work.

“Perception is leaky”

Sutherland’s point about leaky perceptions is that we cannot tell the difference between the quality of the item and our environment. The perception of Apple products is that having an iPhone or iPad or any of their other products makes us hip, innovative and tech-savvy. It makes us part of a club, so to speak. There are things about their products that do not work well but somehow that is less important. The way they have marketed their products reinforces this perception. If you have SIRI, you can talk to your phone about the weather, food, music or your to-do list and your phone talks back to you. With the iPad, you can present on-the-go to your clients with all kinds of amazing applications that provide a “wow” factor.

It could be chicken and egg

We recognize the facts of a situation but we add our psychological twist to them. That iswhere the reframe comes in. Reframes are not always inaccurate. They can help us understand our circumstances or mislead us. Marketing has used this behavior to guide our reframes for years.

How is marketing really changing reality?

Do companies who do cause marketing understand the intersection between psychology and economics?

When reality and perception are completely asynchronous, how can a company connect with its customer?