At the heart of our work over the past 7 years in social media and digital marketing is a collection of behavioral economics and network science. We needed a way to understand and therefore plan how ideas move across networks and what drives people to some type of behavior change in response to engagement in social activities. We frequently simply this to just say ‘ what causes people to care to share.’
We looked to researchers and “synthesizers” like Robert Cialdini, Dan Ariely, the Heath Brothers and Charles Duhigg amongst others. We took ideas like the Drivers of Influence and made them into heuristics – rule of thumb models – that teams could use to plan and execute predictably great programs. This “art and science” also served as the antidote to the unrealistic expectations of marketers who were shopping for "viral videos" – assets that would magically inflame an epidemic of sharing and retweets. To reliably spark word of mouth experience proved there are some rules to follow.
A New Model
Our science grew as we gained experience that needed to be codified or discovered new research to inform our approach. While all of this was quite relevant, it became a bit unwieldy. We ended up with a list of lists. Meanwhile, Facebook began promoting the concept of “social by design” amongst its brand and agency partners. This was a fairly random subset of what we were using to design against. They also talk about it two ways - as a POV on product design and as an approach to creating marketing solutions driven by Facebook advertising. We think of t as a new way to design completely integrated solutions. Still, their exposition ratified that what we were doing was “designing” great programs. So, we have simplified our approach to designing successful social media-based programs into the Principles of Social Design.
The Principles of Social Design
The new model has two complimentary parts: The Network Influence Model and the Drivers of Word of Mouth. The first explains how ideas move through influencers or networks. The second combines the most useful rules of behavioral economics into sets of descriptors that explain why people share. In their simplest form they serve as valuable rules for evaluating ideas. They can also serve to build belief across an integrated team about the strengths of designing creative ideas meant to stimulate word of mouth.
The Network Influence Model
- Influencers: who are the pro-am, relevant influencers who we can engage?
- Community: how can we use communities to drive social behaviors?
- Owned ecosystem: How can we use our owned and controlled online and offline properties to extend the model?
- Paid eco-system: How do we use our advertising channels and tactics to extend the reach of our influencers + network?
The Drivers of Word of Mouth
- Value Exchange: Have we offered a clear value exchange?
- Disrupting Idea: Have we surprised or challenged expectations?
- Great Story: Do we have a great story with emotional and rational interest?
- Fresh Interest: Do we have something new or interesting to talk about?
- Social Proof: Can people show their involvement?
- Creative Participation: Do we invite people to play a creative role?
- Simple Advocacy: Do we remind people to share and make it easy?
Each of these ideas has a simple set of qualities in a list that help guide program design. Not every program needs all the boxes checked. But the more the merrier. Trying to design and deploy a great program without enough of this stuff is guaranteed disaster.
Our model will continue to evolve. It is constantly fed by our own experience with what works and what doesn't not just teh great academic research going on out there.