Tag Archive for 'human nature'

How to create engaging presentations

Last Tuesday, I spoke at Bootup Camp, an initiative run by my good friends Bart Jellema and Kim Chen at Tjoos. Four teams worked for 14 days from 9am to 9pm to conceive, build and launch a business. Speakers came in every day to give advice, and I give my insights into communications, human nature and generating an emotional connection with an audience.

I’m cringing, but people that didn’t attend did ask me to share the videos when I got word. So here it is – enjoy!

How Twitter is using psychology to bootstrap an unbelievable trend

The core activity of Twitter compels its users to act in ways that makes them forget about what they are really doing.

When I first came to accept that lifelogging was an upcoming trend, I thought how the hell would people allow that to happen? Lifelogging (or lifestreaming as I prefer to call it) is a constant stream of your life, in a way that is reminiscent of the Truman Show. Put yourself in the mindset of someone in 1995, 2000 or even 2005 – and imagine if someone said: "One day, you will make public your inner most thoughts about the world". What would your response be? I would have probably laughed in disbelief.

Stalker

How people get caught into the river of lifestreaming
The Facebook homescreen (which came to life in late 2006), certainly gave the lifestreaming concept a big jump forward by forcing it on their users. Arguably, you could say blogs started it all – but it’s not quite the same as what Twitter is creating.

With Twitter, people usually start hesitantly and confused. They send messages, and drop a few personal insights into their life, because they realise that’s what other people are doing. As they acquire followers, they develop a more persistent relationship with their service. They realise the value of connecting with new people, which happens as they develop their social melebrity status. There is a sense of status in the fact hundreds of people willingly follow you – with status being a core human aspiration. They get hungry: they want more followers.

How a race distracts from the behaviour you then permit
What Aston Kutcher did is typical of what all Twitter users do, albeit on a smaller scale (ie, increase their following). The fascinating thing about this, is that people forget that they are now chasing an endless tail, which further entrenches them into the lifestreaming phenomenon.

Twitter requires people to explicitly share. The focus on this core activity, makes people attempt to create a witty message or one that people value. They get caught up in participating in lifestreaming, completely forgetting and then accepting (if confronted) what they’ve lost.

That being, we’ve now given up the thing people most freak out about in electronic communications: our anonymity and privacy in the world.

As more and more people get onto Twitter, and as more celebrities get caught up in it which will bring the non-tech world into the fold – watch this phenomenon. The natural cycle of a Twitter user, which eventuates in follower acquisition to increase their sense of status, is actually opening up a world I never thought would actually happen.
One where we share our inner most thoughts and details in life, because psychologically, we feel compelled to.

Truman show exit

Think about that last sentence for a bit. That’s kind of crazy.

Social melebrities and the externality of arrogance

The biggest impact the web and the Internet has had on society can be described using one word: "social". Social computing, social networking, social software, social media – the list goes on. The ability for humans to connect sounds simple, but it’s literally shaking up entire industries. With the rise of mass collaboration however, there has been the creation of a new class of denizen.

Social melebrities
Social media is a broad-based buzz word now becoming mainstream, to describe technologies that enables many-to-many communication between humans. A defining characteristic of social media is that it’s a public discussion. It’s like having a conversation with someone around a water cooler and the people sitting nearby join in on the conversation. Although the message is directed to one specific entity, that same message can be seen by people not originally intended to get the message.

Enter the social melebrity: a social media celebrity. They are people aware of how others can see their message, and consequently, modify their behaviour accordingly.

Celebrity

The problem with social melebrities. As someone becomes more engaged in "social media", a natural fact that emerges is that you become better known. People will subscribe to your content and communications, which in turn creates this sense of self-importance. It implies if people are watching you then therefore you are influential.

An externality of this process however is arrogance. It feeds into the day-to-day language of people, and creates unhealthy behaviours. Like the obsession of people getting more followers on a site like Twitter, is really a symptom of someone chasing for influence to feed their insecurity that they somehow matter.

Extending Twitter as the casestudy,
– most people that follow you are spam and inactive accounts. That growing number of followers doesn’t mean anything. That’s not influence.
– Most people that use Twitter have a job. That means, they cannot physically track every Tweet and at the same time be productive. In other words, if they are people that are doing amazing things in this world, they haven’t got time to track everything you say all the time. That’s not influence.

Arrogance

Remind yourself that you’re unique – just like everyone else. Once you delve into this world, just assume you are going to get a lot more exposure of your personal brand. Good on you if you do – but remember, it doesn’t matter. Real influence comes from the types of people that follow you, not from the amount of people that follow you (and following can vary in itself depending how how engaged they are in you). There’s no easy metric to determine "real" influence or reach, but there’s a lesson in that nevertheless: drop the arrogance. You might be famous now – but so is everyone else.

The power of feedback

Validation of a persons self-worth is a key aspect of being human. Why do we like praise, but not criticism? Because the former validates our self-esteem, the latter contradicts it. Insecure people tend to seek more validation from other peoples opinions – because they need other peoples opinions to validate their self-esteem. Wonder why the modest don’t boast? It’s because their validation is not derived from having to tell you so that you know. They already know you know, and if you don’t agree, they don’t care – they’re self validated.

However no matter how secure you are with yourself, everyone loves a bit of validation – it’s just some people need it more than others, or possibly, we all have different ways in how we validate ourselves. Some fish for compliments on their looks; others validate themselves through great achievements. Validation of who we are, is what drives almost everything we do. That’s why an atheist should never bag out religion to a believer – the argument about whether God exists is irrelevant; what is relevant, is that by criticising the existance of a religious establishment, you are actually criticising a person’s self-identity that has been built on that establishment, by effectively de-validating their belief system.

Motivation systems are complex, and I by no means claim to be an expert – but I do know, that the power of feedback is one of the most effective ways of motivating an individual, especially when it comes to content creation. In the context of web-services, recognition and validation are key: people will stick around on your site, if they feel a greater sense of self-worth because of it.

There are two ways people feel validated on online communities: analytics and responses. Analytics in the sense of statistics: page and profile views, unique visitors, popular content. Most bloggers arn’t really making money out of their blog – so why is software that provides statistics on their readership so popular? Because knowing people read your blog, is a form of validation. A bit like how an insecure teenage girl feels validated by the attention she myspace profilegets from sleazy older men. Right now, I am writing this blog entry because a reader asked if I could write more about the interaction between psychology and successful web start-ups. His comment validated my opinions, spurring me to write more on the subject.

Likewise, Myspace users will post a “Thanks for adding me” comment on a new friend. Why? Because it means more people will visit their profile. The reason I can say there are ulterior motives to just thank someone, is because they could have said “thanks for adding me” as a private message. So it then begs the question of why do they want more people to visit their profile? Because people get an ego boost seeing their page count go up.

Statistics to something you’ve created, are a quiet form of feedback. The more views, the more validated you feel by that. Popularity is a great feeling!

A second type of validation, is a bit more direct: it’s through the interactions with people. When people create content – photos, blog postings, whatever – nothing is more satisfying for them than a comment.

Features like Flickr’s recent activity are also apparently, what makes it so addictive. Again – it’s a form of validation. By responding to something someone has created, you are giving value to that creation – that feedback can make someone justify the effort, by providing recognition.

Sometimes the most powerful way a boss can keep their employees satisfied, is by a simple “thank you”. Recognition for effort expended by someone, can sometimes be all that someone needs to keep going.

Think you have a killer web2.0 app? You might. But unless a user feels like they are getting feedback on their existance and content creation, their first visit will likely also be their last. Feedback feels good. People want to feel good. So go and make them feel good about themselves.

People think like two-year-olds

A few thoughts:

1) Property ownership is one of the central tenets of capitalism.

2) At work, I am involved in a special assignment. Throughout the initiative, I’ve caused a lot of friction with various groups because it was perceived that I was infringing on their “territory”.

3) Myspace allows users to customise their profile however they want. And people do.

4) My two-year old niece is going though a stage where everything is “hers”.

5) Capitalism works better than any other economic system; my firm is very successful as an organisation; Myspace is a run-away hit; my niece is a happy baby.

Notice a trend? The only difference between you and a toddler is that you don’t say “mine” every time someone takes your toy. Want to get peoples’ support or to buy your product? Then remember this: property and giving people a sense of ownership is how us humans work. We take comfort in what we can control.