To succeed in social media, you need to stop worrying and learn to love chaos, writes Annie Robinson.
Chaos Theory studies the effect of complex systems – those that are nonlinear and subject to many variables. Chaos is defined scientifically as, “The primal state of unformed matter and infinite space supposed in some cosmogonic views to have existed before the ordered universe. Chaos is a state of primal emptiness that is governed by simple and precise laws, but where the outcome is unpredictable and may change greatly with slight variations in starting conditions.”
Well, you can’t get much more variable than social and community sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Just like any system, social sites are small galaxies in a wider universe. All it takes is for one person to post an opinion (slight variation) on a certain topic, and if that person has a degree of persuasive strength and influence, characterised usually by a large following, everything can change.
We can refer to this as “The Butterfly Effect“, when one small action (like the flap of a butterfly’s wings) can create a dynamic and increasing change in any system.
For instance, you create a blog post on any subject and post it on Facebook or Twitter (or both). You have both persuasive strength and you have done your research and know what is topical. That comment triggers so many new added comments that it is featured and becomes a trending topic. This could even result in that keyword being marked by search engines as important. The next thing you know, your initial post is ranking in search engines.
How can you, the marketer, take advantage of chaos theory? How can you create the conditions that mark you as a butterfly with enough wingspan to create this kind of variable? The simple answer is: you can’t.
Take this conversation from The Matrix:
Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realise the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
Like the spoon, you cannot bend the environment or the site to your will; it will not bend. You can, however, become the butterfly by changing the way you interact with the spoon – in this case, social media.
Social media butterflies are easy to spot. They have a certain style. They flow with the conversation and respond to the winds of change. They are right there, floating above the stream, listening and watching for the chance to brush their wings along the conversation and send it all flowing their way.
Being a social media butterfly means:
- You have entered the site as a participant ready to build relationships and make connections.
- You have positioned yourself as an expert by using authenticity and sincerity.
- You have educated, entertained, inspired and aided others. In short, you have added value to those in your growing community.
- You have built a community that is based on trust, whose members are able to interact and contribute their own ideas and thoughts.
- You keep your contributions relevant and on the cutting edge.
- You spend time each day researching, listening and watching the conversations so that you are ready to respond.
- You measure the effectiveness of your posts and comments.
The flexibility and openness of social platforms come with tremendous power, where ripples in the environment can move from community to group to the world at large. Just like a change in the variable of any galaxy will eventually reach out into the rest of the universe, you have the ability to create change.
Take advantage of Chaos Theory. It’s often more powerful than the best laid plans.
Annie Infinite is a social media strategist who specialises in authentic marketing and educating website owners how to create successful media marketing campaigns. Follow her on Twitter @AnnieInfinite