Social media engagement and complexity marketing

Just as economists are doing, media and marketing communicators need to develop a new world view, one which embraces deep complexity as a defining characteristic of our communications environment.

Wiredset posted a really useful article (by Mark Ghuneim, with contributions from Seth Salomon and Mari Katsunuma) yesterday about the tricky question of how to measure social media engagement.

The model is incredibly useful – chimes really well with whatI’m thinking and gives some new ideas. I especially like the “types of engagement” graphic:


One marker of the quality of Wiredset’s thinking is the acknowledgement of complexity in social media not as a barrier to engagement but more a fact of life, a characteristic of behaviour in networks and also of  networks themselves. Something, in fact, to be measured:

These levels of engagement can be measured by the complexity and ultimate depth of user actions and the related amount of attention associated with each.

I’m reading The Origin of Wealth by Eric Beinhocker at the moment (on the recommendation of Jon Leach at Pattern Recognition). Beinhocker’s describing a concept called Complexity Economics that is overturning a lot of the previous, limited thinking about how economies work.

The difference is, while traditional economics tried to fit the real world into tight frameworks and obey mechanical laws, he understands economies as being closer to ecosystems – complex adaptive systems – i.e. always evolving, always changing, and highly, highly complex.

Complex adaptive systems is what the web, online communities, social media are too. Makes me think we should borrow from the “complexity economics” phrase, complexity theory, and begin describing a new way of looking at online comms: complexity marketing.

Just as economists are doing, media and marketing communicators need to develop a new world view, one which embraces complexity as a defining characteristic of our communications environment.

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