Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Id, Ego & Super-Ego of the Social Media Mind

I've met a lot of great people through social media. My career has certainly benefitted from the power of my network. What seems to have taken shape, however, is a certain elitism in the arena we've come to know as "social media marketing". This is not necessarily a bad thing, but really more of a fascinating case study in the way we think, particularly as marketers.

The Id, as Freud explains, is the part of the mind that focuses on selfishness and instant self-gratification. It is also, by Freud's calculation, "dark and inaccessible". When you think about the dynamics of social networking, this seems to call out an inherent need to discover the truth, and in some way or form, to be aligned with it. Social media groups are one example of this. You have a certain passion for something, some form of interest that has commonality, and you identify with it and identify with others through it. Yet when we actively engage with a group, we can discover certain barriers. Often there are heirarchies to observe,  respects to be paid, even background checks to undergo. Have you ever been rejected from a group? I have. And in all cases, I wasn't given "due process", or at least I didn't feel that I was. In the groups that I am a part of, there is a certain protocol to the way we communicate. This is usually a good thing, since as social animals, we do need rules. Where things get a bit challenging are instances in which "leaders" organically emerge, and sometimes they dictate the flow of informational exchanges to the extent where the integrity of an idea or an experience can get lost.

Which leads us to a place that can take us to a level of inflated self-worth: the ego. The social web often seems to placate to the whims of the ego. Blogs and microblogs, for example (and I hope I'm not stepping into my own land mine here ;), have become wonderful repositories for self-expression, but they have also have evolved into popularity contests and platforms for shameless self-promotion. Advertising industry blogs and forums are notorious for this. Again, don't get me wrong - there are a ton of great insights generated in these environments - but there is an element of "celebrity" evolving that, in my humble opinion, defeats the purpose of collaboration and idea sharing. If you don't believe me, try contacting one of these celebrities and see what happens...usually nothing. The best part is when, say, a celebrity asks you to follow them on Twitter, but they have no interest in following you. This is in large part due to the fact that they already have hundreds if not thousands of followers, and people they follow. And sure, you can DM somebody, but the point is to be reciprocal and equitable in your communications, to effectively be "in line" with everyone else. 

Then there are the ideals that comprise the super-ego. According to Wikipedia, the super-ego is described as a "type of conscience that punishes misbehavior with feelings of guilt. For example: having extra-marital affairs". Infidelity is an interesting analogy for this, especially when you consider that who we are in life is who we are at work.  So, in looking at the social media landscape, as marketers we have many loyalists and advocates that are ready to speak and act on our behalf...but are we always loyal to them? Are we looking out for their best interests in giving them a solid platform with which to speak? Are we truly engaged in the dialogues they've committed to starting or joining? More specifically, how many times have you seen a group page, network subset or community platform abandoned by a brand? 

This "cultural super-ego" within the social web is one that we all need to keep in check. If we're not careful, it could streamroll to a point where people become disenfranchised from the very groups or communities they've joined to share and hone their voices. On the bright side, it's also something we can carefully observe and learn from. All we have to remember as marketers is that people are ready and willing to share their perspectives, we just need to respect their contributions and keep those conversations ongoing, both online and off.


3 comments:

brandthis said...

miss you freud

Gunther Sonnenfeld said...

Miss you too miss brand this...

albina N muro said...

Traditional mass media once offered marketers the benefit of reach, but ... On the digital side, mobile and social media were the two categories. check your instagram followers