William James and Josiah Royce, near James’s country home in Chocorua, New Hampshire in September 1903. James’s daughter Peggy took the picture. On hearing the camera click, James cried out: “Royce, you’re being photographed! Look out! I say Damn the Absolute!”
Facebook has reached and continues to grow beyond its long-heralded customer base of 1 billion users. That’s a lot of people putting themselves online.
How prescient, therefore, was this observation by William James, the pioneering American psychologist-philosopher, from way back in the year 1890:
“We are not only gregarious animals liking to be in sight of our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorably by our kind.”
James’ insight seems to predict the popularity of Facebook and social media in general more than a century later.
Dr. Victor Frankl also wrote extensively about our search for connection and meaning. He said that loving and serving others is the secret to a purposeful life, along with finding something you do well, having a positive way to cope with suffering and loss, and experiencing beauty in the world.
We, too, would be smart to recognize belonging or “relatedness” as a critical need and motivation for all audiences. Our business continues to move away from broadcasting messages and toward facilitating human interaction, whether it be via a blog, webinar, website, social media property, retail environment or special event. Using this insight, we can create meaningful channels and content that will compel, connect and captivate.
In any given project or campaign – message and media – this might include:
1) creating a sense of mission and purpose
2) leveraging a cultural movement or trend
3) providing a call to action of some kind, as something to do
4) creating tools and channels for content creation and conversation
5) structuring progressively deeper levels of engagement
6) creating rich experiences, especially those that are simple, aesthetically beautiful and/or downright fun.
In so doing, we transcend the mechanical aspect of our work and become thoughtful about how we help clients change their audience’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors. The spaces we create for our clients will be noticed and their audiences will find belonging and meaning there.
Do you have any other engagement strategies? If so, please share. In the meantime, when you get that happy feeling when someone “likes” you on Facebook… you will now know why.
Jim Pontarelli is RDW’s President and lead researcher and planner. Over the years, he’s worked on numerous Fortune 100 brands. Endlessly curious about how people think and behave, he recently became a licensed clinical social worker and trained group therapist.