How to use your brain for social success

In today's fast paced world of mile a minute messages flying past us, it is becoming harder and harder for brands to get noticed and resonate with users. Being on Twitter is like driving on the highway at 100mph, and tweets are like billboards you pass along at blinding speed -- there's really not much time to read them, even less to get their message.

I began to ask myself if, at the dawn of the digital era, we were sufficiently evolved in our technology relationships to be able to consume and digest so much coming at us. We all remember seeing minority report and thinking how strangely futuristic that amount of advertising (and intelligence) data coming at us all at once felt.

How to use your brain for social success

To answer this question, I began to look into how our brains work, and how we make decisions based on this data. I am not a psychologist by any means, but this is what I learned -- the human brain works in two modes: conscious and unconscious. Sigmund Freud described the unconscious as the place where our dark desires, memories, and thoughts are stored -- but that is not relevant to the way I feel we are processing all the messages coming at us, and specifically for this piece relating to tweets, updates etc.

Timothy D. Wilson, the physiologist, wrote a book called "Strangers to ourselves." He explains that our mind will switch back and forth between conscious and unconscious modes of thinking, relative to the situation. He says that, "The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a good deal of high level, sophisticated thinking to the unconscious."

Malcolm Gladwell in "Blink" talks about "thin slicing" -- by taking a very quick look at the relevant information about a topic, we can make a very accurate assessment. His book, which I am a big fan of, is based on the principles and study of the adaptive unconscious, which to simplify, looks at the brain as a massive supercomputer, able to rapidly process the data we need to function as human beings. It is this set of processes that allow humans to make very fast snap decisions based on very little information (or information we are conscious about consuming and processing).

Based on the work of these gentlemen, we can learn that the adaptive unconscious does a fantastic job of warning us of hazards, initiating action, setting goals, and sizing up circumstances in a very complicated and proficient manor.

To help us understand the difference, and how this is relative to our business in the digital space, I would like to take a further look into Twitter vs. Twylah. If you are not familiar with Twylah, it is a startup based in San Francisco that creates a website out of your tweets based on the topics that you share. You can see an example at tweets.engageia.com vs. twitter.com/Engageia -- or my personal pages twylah.com/KentSpeakman vs. twitter.com/KentSpeakman

The typical brand Twitter feed requires the user to spend substantial time researching and making an assessment of how they feel about the brand. This method of slowly clicking links might actually take weeks to uncover a relevant subject or content. Browsing tweets on a Twitter brand page is likened to the frenzied, addictive behavior of animals when food is scarce and far between, and rewards are intermittent and unpredictable. Twylah follows the "information scent" of a tweet, and displays everything up front on the homepage. When users see relevant content up front, they are rewarded with more of what they are looking for, and can spend more time "grazing" as opposed to "foraging."

I feel that what Twylah is doing actually helps the visitor "thin slice" their perception of the brand by providing a better view of the content, topics, and rich media shared by the brand. All of this data and content is front and center. Our adaptive unconscious can assess this brand and we can very quickly make a judgment or correlation with that brand with the help of our unconscious mind.

You could say the same for Facebook with the change to timeline in a similar capacity. Facebook was pretty simple, updates from the user or a users friends, one on top of another in a stream. Now we have all kinds of updates compartmentalized into types of content or sources of content on our timeline pages. I can see my Pinterest activity, subscriptions, photos, events etc., all at a glance. We are getting more and more data presented to us and I believe our modes of thinking -- or the ways we are tapping into our adaptive unconscious in a digital world -- is evolving. We are sitting at a very interesting juncture in terms of our relationship with digital data and the way we relate to it. The ad business is all about persuasion and the psychological drivers our messaging delivers. I participated in a couple panels last year with some of the brightest guys in the industry on the future of television, apps, and social connectivity around the big screen and the second screen. At one of these panels in San Francisco I was blown away with Patrick Dixons presentation on fusing brain cells onto microchips -- and the remote communication capabilities between two lab rats. He also shared some information on devices in the market in Asia that you can place on your head and think to change the channel on your TV.

My next question is how far will this go and what will the relationship between the brain, technology, and the data stream look like in 10 years. Exciting stuff when you think about it.

Kent Speakman is president of ENGAGEIA.

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