Monday, November 21, 2005

Now You’re Getting Personal: Syndication Format Choices and ‘Emotional Bandwidth’

Bringing people into your syndication dialogue hinges on delivering relevant content. Support your efforts by tapping into their emotional states and figuring out how to resonate with them emotionally. The form of content you deliver can determine how efficiently you do this.


Successfully engaging in syndication hinges on the assumption that you’ve got your messages sorted out; that you know what you want (or need) to say to your target market. You believe you have the content 'seed corn' to produce social discourse with your audience, right? So, how do you get the audience to consume your content?

While there are lots of strategies and tactics out there from a lot of smart people, it boils down to this:

You must put out content worthy of their participation.

Syndication is, after all, an opt-in world. ‘If you build it, they will come’ will not raise you above the ambient noise level of 21 plus million blogs.

To appeal enough for people to opt in, you must ‘seismically’ touch them (or their industry). You must create a ripple in their pond that shows up on their graph. You must define your ‘stake in the ground’ (your central message), communicate it with convincing conviction, and then continue to hold audience attention and keep your message inertia by continually impacting your community’s thinking.

The question looming is how to efficiently create such an impact.

Suw Charman’s November 10th address on Social Media delivered to the Utah Marketing Exec Forum keeps me thinking and re-thinking this whole opt-in efficiency thing. Her response to a question she fielded about different syndicated media types was profound, and thought-provoking.

She said:

If you think of the different media as able to communicate different amounts of information--text has a very low emotional bandwidth because I can write something in text, and you have no idea about tone of voice, body language, you don’t really know how to interpret it. So, if I’m sarcastic in text, you’ll never know. You can interpret it as sarcastic, you can interpret it as being straight, and unless I give you some indication there’s no way you can tell.

Now those indications have emerged in the form of ‘smileys.’ But they’re highly ineffective. So your next step on in emotional bandwidth is audio. So in audio you’ve got tone of voice. If I say something really sarcastic, then you can tell, you can hear what I mean. If I’m upset, you can hear it. If I’m happy, you can hear it. If I’m passionate you can hear it in my voice. And podcasting taps into that level of extra emotional bandwidth.

While there’s a lot of discussion about the validity of podcasting as a messaging medium, it clearly gives you an extra amount of ‘emotional bandwidth’ in conversations, informal discussions and communications that you can’t get from text. Podcasts can be much more humanizing, intimate and more personal than text.

Efficient use of emotional bandwidth means increased emotional impact, and personal emotional impact can be a powerful opt-in incentive.

Podcasting presents an opportunity if your business can figure out “how do we use this?” Done well, podcasts in the form of general conversations and interviews are—like their non-virtual counterparts—where you really start to get to know someone else.

Concluding her answer to the question, Suw also made this observation:

Businesses must resist the urge to broadcast, to actually just orate at their audience as if they were on TV or radio, because as soon as you start doing that, you really kind of lose the interactivity.

There are many of business-related questions to ask and answer before embarking on a podcast strategy (which we’ll talk about in subsequent posts).

In my opinion, there are lots of really interesting things that can be done with podcasting--doing them well will be a determining factor in maximizing your ‘emotional bandwidth’ yield.

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