Monday, November 24, 2008

5 Ways to Engage the Unconscious Mind at a Website

We like to think that we are rational, logical decision makers, but the reality is that most human decisions are made unconsciously. So if that is true, can a website engage the unconscious mind?

Here are five of the more compelling ways to do that. Write back and tell me if you agree.

1. Use sex, food, or danger. The unconscious mind pays attention to the possibility of sex, to food, and to danger. If you use any of these triggers at a web site then the unconscious pays attention. So show a picture of a good looking man and/or woman with a flirtatious look in their eyes, or a full color picture of luscious food, or a scary picture, and you'll grab 'em. Well, not all sites lend themselves to using any of those, so let's move on to #2.

2. Use ratings. Ratings invoke the principle of social validation. If we see that other people have rated the (product, idea, author, blog, etc) highly, then we feel we should check it out too.

3. Tell a story. Some of the latest research on brain scans (fMRI scans) shows that people digest information in a story format. Using stories makes information easier to understand, and engages us automatically on both a conscious and unconscious level.

4. Don't offer too many choices. Research shows that people pay attention to only about 2 or 3 attributes of a product or an offer at a website. If you offer too many choices the unconscious can't decide (it's really the unconscious deciding). Too many choices and people freeze up and don't take any action at all.

5. Use the word YOU. The unconscious mind is all about YOU. You will pay attention if you see the word you.

Check it out. See if you react a certain way to sites that follow these 5 principles.

Top 10 Reasons Boomers Go Kicking and Screaming Into Blogging

I actually have two blogging coaches and one twitter coach. I'm trying to get the hang of this blog thing. I really am. It's a slow road. I'm a baby boomer and I just don't think we boomers are good at this blog/twitter/viral marketing thing. But I'm trying.

One of my blogging coaches says that top ten lists are good. That people like to read top ten lists in blogs. And my twitter coach, well, I haven't even begun to figure out what she is trying to tell me to do with twittering. I might be able to master blogging one day, but I'm not sure at all that I'll ever be a master twitterer.

So here is my top 10 list of things that prevent boomers from easily blogging or twittering:

#1 -- we have a really hard time saying things concisely. In a blog we have only a few paragraphs to say something pithy. That's not enough for us. We tend to ramble. And twittering gives us only a few words! It's daunting!

#2 -- we feel that if we say something it has to be really profound. We've got an ego the size of an elephant.

#3 -- we are acutely aware of the fact that most people that are possibly going to read the blog or the twitter message are NOT boomers, and we fear that we have nothing to say that younger generations are remotely interested in.

#4 -- we are awed by the internet. To publish something on the internet is a BIG THING to us.

#5 -- we think that blogs are like columns in newspapers and we have the old-fashioned idea that it is journalists and writers that write columns. We don't think of blogging as a job.

#6 -- we don't understand any of the twitter messages we get from others, so we can't imagine sending a message like that out to anyone else.

#7 -- we are afraid that we will write a blog and no one will post a response. It's like checking your mail box and no one sent you any letters...

#8 -- we're afraid of using outdated an anachronistic examples like #7 above. I should have said "it's like checking your inbox and no one sent you any emails..."

#9 -- we're afraid that people will actually read our blogs and find out that we actually don't have anything interesting to say.

#10 -- we're afraid that we'll obsessively go back and read our own blogs and twitter messages and realize how dumb we sound.

Oh well, time to go twitter about my blog (?)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Social Computing Elected the US President

The last chapter in my new book is called “The Next Big Thing”, and it’s all about the fact that being human means being social. It is built into our brains and evolution to live together with others, and to be very influenced by our “pack” or group. History shows us that whatever technology there is, we will find a way to use it to communicate – to make it social.

Look at the history:

The printing press allowed people to communicate via the written word in a way that was much faster. Before the printing press each book had to be copied by hand, a task that sometimes took years. The printing press brought that time down to days, and in some instances, hours. That meant that books could be created by the thousands and more for people to read. But that wasn’t the main use of the printing press. Individuals and small groups used it to start to communicate quickly. Much of the early use of the printing press was not long books, but short pamphlets or even one page “bills” like bulletins. The printing press was truly a form of mass communication.

Same thing with telephones. When the first telephones were first being developed they were viewed as an updated version of the telegraph. There was no plan for people to have telephones in their homes. The assumption was that the telephones would be in the telegraph offices and be used to convey messages from telegraph office to telegraph office (and from there the message would be written out and delivered).

Same thing with cell phones. I was talking one day with a client at Motorola who told me that years and years ago his group at Motorola invented the cell phone, and then put it on the shelf where it sat for years. “Why?”, I asked. “Why didn’t you bring it to market right away?” He answered: “Well, we thought we’d only be making about ten of them. Not much of a market.” “Ten of them? Why did you think that?”, I asked. His reply was “We figured each head of state for major nations would have one. You know, the President of the United States, the head guy in Russia, and so on. We thought they’d use it to prevent a world war. I had no idea people would use it to call home before leaving work to see if they should pick up milk!”

And now it’s happened once again with Barack Obama’s election as US President. I participated in the campaign at my local level and was struck immediately by the campaign’s use of technology. Millions of people in the US were tracked in a data base that used buying patterns, magazine subscriptions, and whatever other data that can be purchased, to figure out whether they were likely to be an Obama supporter, a McCain supporter or undecided. Then legions of volunteers were sent out to knock on doors and conduct a short survey. The results of that survey were fed back in to the database. Algorithms were revised and new lists created that got tested again. This continued every week for weeks and weeks. The campaign used this data to decide where to target, who to call, which doors to knock on (focus on the undecided). At the same time the viral power of Facebook was put to work. Technology was used to socially collaborate and network. From campaign contribution, to volunteering, to creating a buzz, technology and social collaboration on the web had a major part in electing a President.

People will always push the envelope to bend the available technology to purposes that extend and improve communication and the opportunity to be social. It always leaves me wishing I could see ahead and predict the next social use of technology. Every time I find myself saying, “of course, why didn’t I see that coming!”