Friday, December 11

Linking Emotions To Links: David Snyder


"Links are the product of what elicits an emotion from website owners, and the link builder that can tap these emotions is going to be able to manipulate the most important element in search rankings." — Dave Snyder, co-founder of Search & Social

When David Snyder, co-founder of Search & Social, a Web company focused on helping companies leverage the Internet, tied psychology to link giving, he seemed to understand the application of psychology as to why influential marketers would link to Invesp’s 100 Most Influential Internet Marketers.

The concept is simple enough. According to Snyder, Invesp is hoping to create content (a list in this case) that leverages the Internet marketer's pride, which in turn elicits the Internet marketer to link to the site on which they are being considered for inclusion. Ironically, these Internet marketers, when they do link to support themselves on Invesp's list, directly increase the perceived credibility and influence of the list.

Such tactics are not new. It was partly the basis for Technorati, the AdAge Power 150, and more recently Listorious. It also helped give a secondary push for several social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of others that include ranking systems based on connections.

In some ways, it's tied to advice given out by too many social media experts — if you want links, link to other people; if you want comments, comment on other people's blogs; if you want to be "retweeted," retweet other people; if you want to be listed, list other people; if you want to be recognized as a leader in a particular field, pander to the perceived leaders.

The same can be said for the recent offerings in social media certifications. Several people who are attempting to cash in on the certificate program know that if enough of the right people buy into the program to give it a lift, then others will follow.

All of it points to an interesting component of social media and search. Quality, insight, or expertise are not always the defining factors in rank. Popularity tends to elevate popularity, companies pander to "influencers" and communication or marketing colleagues will comment where their comments will most likely be seen or, well, take your pick. (Don't misunderstand me. Many earn it.)

Where Snyder might be one degree off is in that "pride" is not the only emotion that lists and ranking systems elicit. Valeria Maltoni discovered that the psychology behind being included in a list covers a broad spectrum of emotions.

However, the results are the same. Lists tend to get noticed because it is in the self-interest of those listed to notice them and people cater to popular because it is in their self-interest to be as close to the source of popularity as possible. (Incidentally, this conversation topic has partly influenced an in-progress study and unrelated experiment for next year.)

Popularity topics aside, Snyder nails an important piece of the marketing equation.

Do you really want to know why Zhu Zhu Pets are popular this year? Why there are a range of emotions revolving around Tiger Woods? Or why CBS missed the mark on comedy?

Applying Snyder's model helps it make sense (minus the idea that "thoughts" are always part of the process). Simply put, marketers, advertisers and public relations professionals are in the business of creating messages or content that elicit a thought or emotional response in the hopes of converting those thoughts into action that results in a pre-defined objective.

Where many of them go wrong, however, is in either ignoring this part of the process, assuming influence over the media will apply the right context, or grossly miscalculating what thoughts and/or emotions will be tied to what they initiate.

Zhu Zhu Pets, for example, are hit toys not because of one "thought" but an entire array of emotions created by the wave of a hit product with limited supply as much as the humanizing customization (and originally low price point) associated with it. Different people arrive at the same action for different emotional reasons. In contrast, different people arrive at different conclusions about Tiger Woods based on different emotions as influenced by the context of how they view the situation. And, CBS missed the comedic mark once again because different people experienced the same emotion (disgust) when the network tried to find humor in linking pornography, children, and a well-defined icon of innocence.

Of course, these varied outcomes are also what makes communication situational and often unpredictable. Change any piece of the equation and the outcomes will be wildly different, online or offline.

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