Although we know the web connects the whole world, most of us end up connecting mainly with people similar to ourselves. In this video, blogger and geek Ethan Zuckerman shares his desire to link the whole of the wider world, using smart tactics to open up your Twitter world and read news in various languages.
Ethan Zuckerman is an activist and blogger, living in Western Massachusetts and working in Cambridge as a research fellow at the Berkman Center. As co-founder of Global Voices, Zuckerman says, "I'm interested in ways that citizen's media can address longstanding biases in the news media."
Rebecca MacKinnon and Zuckerman founded Global Voices in 2005 when they were both fellows at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "Initially," says Zuckerman, "we'd planned to build an aggregator of blogs from around the developing world, based on my interest in Africa and her focus on China. As more people got involved with the project, it's become something much larger and more exciting: a global community of citizen media authors, an advocacy group that works to preserve freedom of speech online, a media development organization that promotes participatory media in developing nations, a vast and distributed translation project, and a crazy set of friends from every corner of the world. It's been a joy to be involved with and is one of the projects I'm proudest of."
A recent study by MIT examined how social network structure can influence how behaviors and information spread through a population. Understanding the way information moves through social media is imperative to using these resources to effectively market a product, brand, or person. While the study at MIT focused on how health centered behavior travels through a community, the information obtained can be adapted to the consumer driven marketplace and applied effectively through online marketing campaigns.
MIT believes that all social networks can be described by one of two basic categories: clustered contact networks and casual contact networks (Respectively illustrated by the image provided by MIT below). Clustered contact networks spread complex information much more efficiently and to more people than casual contact networks.
“These figures show experimentally manipulated on-line social networks. The first community (left) has a clustered network structure, while the second one is a more "random" casual contact network. Node colors indicate people who adopted a behavior (blue) and those who did not (white), with lighted links showing the active pathways of communication. The clustered networks spread the behavior to more people than the casual contact networks.” (http://web.mit.edu/press/2010/health-networks.html, accessed 9/8/10, article by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office)
Before this study, it was the widely accepted and presumptive wisdom that casual contact networks, with intense activity and the ability to touch more people, would spread habits and ideas more quickly than the clustered model. It was thought that clustered contact networks were redundant and therefore less efficient. Damon Centola, an assistant professor of system dynamics and economic sociology at the Sloan School of Management decided the opposite. “People are more likely to acquire new health practices while [participating] in networks with dense clusters of connections- that is, when in close contact with people they already know well.” In order for people to actually change their habits, especially something as ingrained as health practices, they need the redundancy and “extra reinforcement” provided by these communities. Just like Pavlov’s dog, you need to hear something a few times before you actually alter your perceptions or behaviors.
How can we apply this to online marketing through social media? The answer is obvious. It’s not all about how many friends or followers you have- or your ability to transmit information to them constantly. People who are more integrated into your life are going to have a greater impact on the decisions you make as well as who you are. We are psychological beings. Therefore, something equal in complexity to health information should be transmitted in a way that is not entirely based upon mathematical equations or numerical values.
While the study practically “begs” for more research, there are things you can do now. Integrate your brand into your audience’s online activities and become an active presence in a related community for your product to take hold. Become a voice on a blog, post to various forums, and make sure your message has meaning and purpose. But then again, it depends on the complexity of what you are trying to communicate. Be wary of the approach you take- convincing a community to vote for a particular politician is a lot harder than advertising a candy bar.
Over the past month, I have become completely addicted to checking in to my locations, earning badges and conquering the title of mayor in a new location-based social networking game called Foursquare.
For those who do not play Foursquare on their smart phones, here is the premise of the game; You “check in” to a location on a map, earn points for checking in, eventually earn badges for checking in enough times to enough places, and most excitingly, you can even receive the title of mayor of a place for being the person to check in most to that particular location, like a restaurant, your work, or your own home.
Again, I have been happily playing Foursquare now for about a month, and I have to admit, it took me about a month too long to realize the potential dangers of Foursquare.
A few days ago a friend approached me to warn me about the constant Foursquare updates that post on my Facebook wall. He warned me that making my locations public is just an invitation for creepers and bad people. So true. I thought back to all the previous places I checked in and the messages I often attached to each check in, telling anyone who checks my Facebook or Twitter accounts where I am at most times, including where and when I work, where I workout, where I love to eat and where I sleep.
If you think about it, this is the perfect invitation for a robber or stalker. Someone up to no good could easily see what days I work and will be out of the house, or when I am out at the gym or out to dinner. I have never personally done this, but people also tend to post the house addresses of their friends and family, which just sets up disaster for others too.
Foursquare has 150,000 users, and the site leaves the decision up to the users whether or not to post their specific location. A fantastic app, fun for the consumer, and brilliant for the businesses. All I can say is think about what you post before you post it, or follow my rules and check in as your leaving! Use discretion, and for god’s sake, do not leave your home address and a message reading, “Gone on vacation, be back in a week!”