Category Archives: theories

Behavioral effects of Social Media Networking websites

Ever wonder why people post on the wall on Facebook rather than sending direct e-mail?  It is because people want to be visible and to be  recognized.  This is an example of online social grooming behavior.  Social grooming offline consists of exchanging pleasantries and small talk with people.  Social grooming amongst friends consists of checking-in (e.g. what’s up? what’s going on?, etc.)

On Facebook, there are applications such as online quizzes that reveal people’s interests to others, these are interactive, in which friends can comment and share the results to others.  These activities are mostly used by Generation Y as a way of self-expression.  The “about me” sections on Facebook and MySpace as well as the decoration of their profiles on MySpace are other examples of individuality and self-expression.  Generation X is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, because of the need to reconnect to old acquaintances, and is driven by the curiosity about the status of former high school and college friends.  Gen Xers tend to use it as a social utility to communicate with the past versus Gen Yers who use it to strengthen with their current friends and acquaintances.

Ever wonder how some people on Facebook have over 500 friends? Is it even possible they have too many of them? It takes much mental computation to keep track of all of them.   There is a number called the Dunbar number, which states that most people cannot keep track more than 150 friends.  Even though we are more connected more than ever, it does not necessarily mean we have better connections with them. We continue to keep in contact with a select few number of friends.  According to this article in the Economist, the statistical breakdown for men versus women in the number of friends are the following:

Thus an average man—one with 120 friends—generally responds to the postings of only seven of those friends by leaving comments on the posting individual’s photos, status messages or “wall”. An average woman is slightly more sociable, responding to ten. When it comes to two-way communication such as e-mails or chats, the average man interacts with only four people and the average woman with six. Among those Facebook users with 500 friends, these numbers are somewhat higher, but not hugely so. Men leave comments for 17 friends, women for 26. Men communicate with ten, women with 16.

An issue that may arise is if one does not want to continue to communicate with some acquaintances  online on Facebook, MySpace and other social media networks or offline.  The difference between online and offline friend behavior, is that offline, meeting people occurs in a short period of time, afterwards, you may not see them again.   Online once you add a friend, “unfriending” them becomes politically onerous.


Rapid Thinking makes people happy

rapid thinking.001.001

What does rapid thinking do to people? The above chart summarizes an article about rapid thinking from Scientific American.  Scientists from Harvard and Princeton found that accelerated and varied thoughts improve your mood and can change a lousy day to possibly a creative one.   However, if ones thoughts are fast and repetitive, it can cause anxiety.  If these thoughts were slowed down, and are repetitive, it may cause depressive thoughts.   If these slow thoughts were varied, thoughts of peaceful happiness, commonly associated with meditation would be stimulated.

Why does speed of thought affect mood?  The researchers infer that dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is important for motivation and pleasure, maybe stimulated.

Does anonymity lead to lack of empathy?

In this article, news commentator Alan Colmes wrote about a man named Angel Arce Torres, 79, who died from being hit by a speeding vehicle.  In this disturbing video, there were many passer-bys who witnessed the accident, but did not react.

Has society lost its moral compass that people do not react when these incidents occur? Mr Colmes also referred to the Kitty Genovese murder case in 1964, when she was being stabbed to death on the street, no one did anything to alert the police or perhaps to stop the stabbing despite 38 witnesses being able to hear her screams.

This was a classic example of Bystander Effect, which people diffuse their responsibility because they believe someone else would take a lead responsibility role.  This occurs because people do not want to take personal responsibility for these crimes.  They prefer not to be involved.  They are afraid that they could make the situation worse because they lack the expertise to deal with the situation.  The manner to which people can get involved would be assign specific duties to any passer-bys.  For example, If you are in the public library, and plan on leaving your belongings unattended, ask someone specifically to watch your belongings, otherwise, they simply would not take any responsibility.

Similar to the above video, this behavior exists online.  This article discusses how because of anomie, empathy is removed and people suffer from “Internet Asperger’s Syndrome,” although I disagree with the terminology, similar to this video, there is the element of anonymity that leads to a mob mentality which people psychologically suffer.   The author coined the term Asperger’s Syndrome because of the nature of this disorder where a person lacks empathy and communication skills, while focusing on specific behaviors which may become obsessive.  In the case of the online community, the obsessive behaviors would include checking email, twittering, blogging and not being able to connect with other people, and viewing them as objects rather than individuals.

This author believes that in some cases due to the environment which anonymity occurs,  people in the online community’s goal is to inflict as much psychological suffering as possible on another human being, and he called it “Harris’ Law.”

I totally disagree.  I think it is the classic case of Bystander Effect and Grouthink, which leads behaviors that range from apathetic to being an active participant. What do you all think?

Communities of Practice

The last book I read was called “Communities of Practice,” it was quite compelling because it discussed how people learn in informal groups that are bound by a common set of ideals or goals.  It was remarkable because much of education today is driven by somewhat rigid and formal processes that take place.  An example of a Community of Practice (CoP) would be a group of runners.   Many runners run by themselves or perhaps with friends or family.  However, in stores such as The Running Room, they have set up clubs where strangers are bound together by a common sense of purpose.  What is of interest to anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists are the cultures, individual psychology and group dynamics that takes place. This CoP, lets strangers learn from each other through participation and reification (gathering of artifacts and making concrete sense of them).  The imagination and engagement that is formed by this group is all bound by a sense of alignment.  Bonding takes place as does camaraderie, members lend each other support as well.

So what does this have to do with branding?  Everyday, people are inundated with messages from advertisers that equate to noise.  I mean how many times have you been annoyed by irrelevant messages?  I would suspect quite a bit.  Now, with the formation of CoP, companies can appeal to people’s tendencies to want to belong in a community and a group.  Also, by the immersion and interaction amongst the members of community, only create a richer experience for them.  The brand is able to help people realize their goals.  Example could be The Dove Campaign for Beauty.  This became a resource center for women, where they can support each other and help educate other women about accepting their beauty.  The Nike world run is another example of a CoP.   Leading up to the run, participants are able to train together with other members by tracking their times as well as coordinating schedules.  The online forum truly acted as a support mechanism, where members are able to participate and reify their experiences through engagement, imagination and all bound by alignment.

Can you think of other examples of CoPs?

Why do companies rest on their laurels and not embrace change?

It is well-known that in order for companies to innovate and build sustainable businesses, they must adapt both their business model and products/services to match the marketplace and the consumer’s needs and wants.  But many businesses seem resistant to change, even ones that are/were dominant.  If this problem is widely-known, why does this exist?

Knowledge at Wharton examines a book by Black and Gregersen that examines this.  The article cites numerous examples that involve both companies and individuals.

In the case of mobile phones, Motorola was highly successful with analog phones.  Even though digital phone technology existed, it did not feel the need to invest in the future technology because their core competency was in analog technology, and digital technology was an expensive proposition for both the mobile phone producer and the carriers.  Nokia took an opportunity with digital technology, and became the largest mobile phone company in the world.   Samsung was for a while perceived to be a discount mobile phone producer.  It has made inroads in Asia where mobile phone penetration is amongst the highest in the world.  It also recognized the need for a camera in the handset, this was not to replace the digital camera, but rather used as a convenience instead.  Just as Motorola ignored Nokia, it paid dearly with respect to both earnings and market share.  By ignoring the emergence of Samsung as a competitor, Nokia also suffered from the same mistake as Motorola.  Will Motorola, Nokia and Samsung all suffer the same fate with the emergence of Apple and its iPhone? Only time will tell.

The historical example from the article mentioned a Spanish explorer named Cortes was commissioned to find the island of California.  Upon exploring the Gulf of Baja, he was convinced that California was an island.  Another explorer was sent to corroborate the findings of Cortes, and he too was convinced that California was an island.  Because the King of Spain believed this, and that there was difficulty to dispel this notion, it took more than 200 years to correct.

So, why did Motorola, Nokia, and Cortes rest on their laurels and did not effectively adapt to the changing ideas?  This was because both the companies and individuals did not fully understand the strength of new ideas and they did not take the time to fully understand them, and it has led to the downfall of these aforementioned companies and individuals.  More importantly, many companies or individuals are blinded by this missed opportunity because of their current successes in their present model or way of thinking.  Both people and companies develop mental maps on how certain procedures or ideas operate.  The longer these maps have been successful, the harder it is for people or companies to feel a need to switch.  These mental maps also guide both peoples’ and companies’ paradigms.  This trap can happen to any company and to anyone.

I also think that there are other reasons in addition to the ones stated in the article, in my opinion, these include: 1) The hardship and the difficulty that the businesses or individuals perceive as well as experience in order to fulfill the change;  2) Businesses or individuals believe that focusing on its core competency(ies) will minimize its potential failures;  3) From a cost perspective, being already invested in its core competency can reap both economies of scale and scope, and these would not be realized with focusing or investing in new technologies; 4) new and emerging technologies or ideas are unknown, and therefore risky.

Mobile phones as the next medium?


With mobile phones outnumbering TVs, PCs, and automobiles; SMS text messaging outnumbering emails, it is not difficult to understand how the mobile phone will be disruptive as the next large media platform. 


There is already a convergence in technologies between Internet, Mobile phones, TV and banking industries.


According to the exerpt from the book, “Mobile as the 7th mass media,” by Tomi Ahonen, the mobile phone started as a simple communication tool that allowed the user to contact or be contacted anywhere and during anytime.  Now this device has transformed to include: consumption (browser), charging (payments), creation (camera), cool (fashion), commercials (advertising) and now community (social networking including: Flickr, Twitter, etc.)


The seven types of media that were discussed in this book include: Print, Recordings, Cinema, Radio, TV, Internet and now Mobile Phones.


Internet was the first technology that content providers engaged users.  Traditionally, the messaging delivered by the content provider was broadcasted to the user, with no interaction.  With the advent of web 2.0 technologies the relationship between the content provider and the user was transformed by the formation of online and offline communities that enabled the user to share, discuss and collaborate different ideas, news, files and other interests with other users.


The book contains a chart that illustrates how newer technologies can cannibalize older ones.  Mobile phones can cannibalize all the other media including the internet.  All the functionalities of the internet are now fulfilled by the mobile phone. 


The seven inherent advantages of the mobile phone include: the personal nature of the phone (advertising message ca be customized to the user, as mobile phones are rarely shared); the portability (the mobile phone is always in proximity to the user whether if they are traveling or sleeping); cell phone is always turned on; the ability to have a payment channel; ability to have user-generated content; more accurate information about the user (easier to measure audience data); the interactivity between the phone and its users – data 2.0 (includes text and twitter messages) measuring not what the individual does, but rather what the group engages in.


An example includes: the iPhone 3G has disrupted the current business model with the convergence of internet and mobile phone technologies, while maintaining user-friendly design with sleek design.  A significant number (30.9%) of iPhone users watch online mobile videos.  During some ad campaigns that targeted mobile phones, 75 percent of all video ad impressions were from iPhone users.  With media rich formats and campaigns that engage the consumer, this type of media could be the future of advertising media.  Increasing brand awareness and brand equity would be the main objectives of advertisers of this medium. 


Here is a quote from an article discussing advertising and the iPhone:


These big brands require premium mobile executions on rich formats, like video and interstitials, to visually showcase their products and to create engaging user experiences. The best use of mobile is seen in multi-format, interactive campaigns that leverage both rich formats and high volume formats like WAP display and text banners to generate brand awareness and favorability, message association and increased likelihood to buy, rather than pursuing on-the-spot purchases in most cases.” 


Here is another article with an interesting video that illustrates the advantages of portability and the interactivity of the mobile phone.  The user shown in the aforementioned video can scan barcodes that are embedded in advertisements that are printed in magazines, newspapers and other written media to purchase the item or to engage in further interactions with the advertiser.


Undoubtedly, mobile phone will be an emerging force for media in the future.  The only area of contention could be the infringement on the user’s privacy.  After all, users must pay for airtime minutes as well as any data received or sent.  In my opinion, the only effective manner that mobile phone advertising can be effective is if advertisers engage the consumer, by being granted permission to do so.  It is the consumers that need to seek this type of media whether it would be downloadable games, applications, or to engage in text messaging/twittering.  Recently, to launch the new 2009 Audi A4, Audi of America released an iPhone game that utilizes the accelerometer technology on the iPhone.  This certainly created a buzz for the game.  Users were fascinated by the game and through users, they became advocates of the advertiser.  

The economy of free. How come I can now get almost anything for free?



Have you noticed there are an increasing number of goods and services are free? This is especially true if the goods/services are from the ever-increasing number of companies that act in the digital environment.  According to this article, one of the reasons is because of declining marginal costs.  As more users utilize the service, the cost per user decreases.  For the internet, storage (Gmail, Yahoo mail), bandwidth (YouTube, Daily Motion, etc.) and processing speed (Google) are all free for the user.



Other examples included are: what may appear to be free to the user, is subsidized by a third party.  For example, some free services on the internet are subsidized by licensing fees, fees for “exclusive” content, advertising revenue and information about subscribers.  Digital technologies will only continue to operate in the free economy. 


More examples include: Promoting products/services using cross subsidies, that occurs when a product/service is free, but the complementing product/service is not; Open Sourcing occurs when completely free product/services are developed and continuously improved by a community of users; and finally, web sites and services using a labor exchange are free because using and contributing to the web site creates value.


More examples of the free economy click here