How to Dominate the Information Spectrum


In the battle to get found online, organizations are using social media to wage information warfare to win the trust and confidence of their constituents.

Former DoD analyst Mark Drapeau, PhD., who is currently an online public diplomacy director at Microsoft, explains how to dominate your information spectrum with lethal generosity.

This is a recording of a presentation he delivered at my Social Media Master Class.

To attend an upcoming social media workshop, visit our calendar for dates and locations.


01:24 – “ Mark talks about his experience prior to joining Microsoft at National Defense University, which is affiliated with the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he studied emerging technologies and their impact on national security. His mandate at Microsoft is to create proactively social content that engages communities, including state, local and federal government offices.

03:31 – Nature abhors a vacuum. Empty spaces will be filled by something. And so, if you work in fashion, or you work in IT, whatever you do, if there's a niche, it will be filled by someone's content.

When you search for a topic, fashion, shoes, computers, is someone finding your stuff?

That's the premise I start with, says Mark.  There's an information war taking place by organizations who want to get found online.

But what's more important than analyzing your traffic, according to Mark, is understanding your audience, what they want and how to engage them.

In his case, if someone is searching Government 2.0 he wants to make sure people are finding his content.

05:01 – “ For organizations, Mark sees new media communications as a form of public diplomacy that can be used to educate the marketplace and increase the receptiveness of Microsoft's customers to their policies, products and services.

Public diplomacy is the act of influencing, engaging and activating the public softening the battlefield and it is used by government agencies and companies to help their organizations achieve certain goals.

07:23 – The convention protocol by which information moves from organization to individual is inefficient, based on the various layers of approval corporate information needs to clear before it winds up reaching the customer. The press release is an excellent example of this. But what's happening is by using social media to communicate with others, what's happening is that a lot of people are bypassing official company channels in the process.

They're not official spokespersons, but they're reaching people. So while organizations struggle to clear official information through the various layers of approval, unofficial voices in social media are filling the vacuum.

Because in most cases, big organizations are slow, and cycling information through their chain of command simply can't keep pace with open source information.

And whenever there is a significant gap between information that can be crowd sourced via open source, and the organization's own, online presence, that organization loses the trust of the community.

Slide Deck: Mark Drapeau Free The People Potomac Forum

People are sharing information and educating one another through Twitter and Facebook.  Sharing information with your online social network has becomes a social norm, and by contrast, organizations that fail to behave this way are seen as antisocial.

The important thing to understand about social media is that it's more about being social than it is about understanding media or technology.

It's not about the tools; it's about interacting with other people.

09:21 – What's amazing to me is that if you go into the marketing department, or the PR group at a government agency and you ask them. Can you name 5 customers or 5 fans of our company they will have a hard time answering that question?

Because, at the end of the day, they are not being social with the kind of people that actually care about the organization, says Mark.  Being social means really caring about a community of people that care about your organization, or topics in which your organization has a vested interest, and that distinction is important because people are more likely to join an issue-specific community than they would be to join your company's community.  People are passionate about issues like sustainability and clean water, and they'll follow a Facebook fan page about that topic, but they're going to be much less enthusiastic about your company's own Facebook fan page.

11:21 – Social media engagement should be proactive, not just reactive.  Mark uses the Transportation Security Administration blog as an example of a social media program that is excessively reactive.

It's better than nothing, he says, but he'd rather see them blogging about broader issues like the future of transportation security and how the international community is addressing them.

And Mark says, this is because big organizations are afraid to be the first to take a public position on issues, for fear of being wrong.

So they're always playing defensive rather than offensive. The best offense is a good offense, he says. Be out there in front.

12:38 – Mark acknowledges that being out in front is risky, but no risk, no reward, he says. As an example, Mark references Peter Shankman's book “Can We Do That?” which contains a lot of good examples of various client engagements where his PR firm took a risk.

Careful with the crazy ideas you come up with. You just might have to do one of them.

14:14 – Mark discusses the article The Message is the Message by Jennifer Senior about the online ubiquity of Obama's presidential campaign. He was everywhere, and the Republicans couldn't keep up with him.

If you are filling those vacuums, and you're dominating your community's information spectrum — everywhere someone's looking for stuff there's something by you: guest postings, you have an article in a magazine, video content, whatever it is — if you can dominate that information spectrum, sometimes it doesn't even matter what you actually say, because people will recognize you as thought leader if you just have a presence and it's decent, says Mark. It's got to be decent, but it doesn't necessarily have to be outstanding if you're a consistent contributor all the time.

Obama was perceived as dominating the presidential race and leading the news stories because he was everywhere.

15:32 – Mark shares Gary Vaynerchuck's line Content is king, but marketing is the queen, and she rules the castle, meaning great content's not enough.

You also have to get it out there.  You have to know where your community is and how to get to them.

MySpace may be out of favor with social media pundits, but the research shows MySpace users tend to be in red states and less likely to be college educated, so trying to reach that audience through Facebook is going to be far less efficient.  Figure out where you're audience is and focus of those social media channels most likely to reach them.

19:53 – Rather than focus on solely on the numbers is an indicator of a social media program's effectiveness, Mark gauges success by whether or not his efforts are delivering value to his community.

He counts thank yous, not click throughs. He knows he did a job last year with socials media not by reviewing his click-throughs, but by the number of Christmas cards he receives from people he originally met online than he did the previous year.

21:22 — A course delegate tells Mark that the only thing that speaks to her superior is metrics, so she can say she's adding value or getting Christmas cards, but at the end of the day, he approves here budget.

Mark responds by saying that if your getting good content out through social media, it's going to wind up reaching people over your superior, and it's going to get back through their social network that you're adding value by filling the vacuum with your organization's messages.

Focus on delivering genuine value to the community, and your superior will see that value through other channels.

23:50 – Determine who the experts are in your organization and figure out how to get them out there.  If you're a marketing or PR person, you're just a conduit.  They're the real experts, so use social media to expose their expertise to a broader audience.  And consider the degree of trust people have for your brand as well.

If you don't have trust, you've got to figure out a way to get it, or your social media communications will be disregarded.

25:03 – Mark talks about Shel Israel's Lethally Generous blog post, which use Jeremiah Owyang's ascent to demonstrate how lethally generosity can effectively dominate an information spectrum by filling the vacuum more frequently than your competitors.  By giving, you become trusted and that trust affords you business opportunities that didn't exist before you became lethally generous.

NOTE: Shel Israel is featured in a previous episode of this podcast about his book Twitterville, and again with Robert Scoble discussing his book Naked Conversations.

You end up not just feeling the pulse.  You become the pulse because you’re not just putting information out there, you start receiving information and opportunities back as well. And that's a very valuable and defensible position to be in. Â

28:42 – In some ways, being a catalyst for social media engagement inside the organizations is about identifying who the experts are, and then determining whose good at which types of communications.

If they'e desk bound, and too busy to write but good on camera, can you set them up with a webcam and YouTube account.  If they're on the road, how can you equip them with the right mobile social networking tools that will work within their existing professional life?

31:08 – Mark shares a quote by Craig Newmark that says “Customer service is public service. And thanks to social media, this really has become the case, because when you help someone via social media, you do so in a public forum where other people can see, and if you do a good job, you wind up earning the trust of the community through your actions.

NOTE: Craig Newmark is featured in a previous episode of this podcast discussing the impact of Craigslist on classified advertising and the newspaper business.

32:19 – Mark sees a lot of indecision inside organizations about social media.

But he reminds us that indecision is not a decision.

Setting up a social media council to draft a report on the potential impact of social media to be reviewed by the board of directors is not a decision.

It's a stall tactic. By the time you come out with your social media guidelines to empower your advocates, you're going to have lost so much time that your competitors and opponents are going to fill the vacuum already.  They're going to be thought leaders or you're going to be just starting out.

Plans are nothing without actions.  Analysis paralysis will strangle your organization's ability to engage constituents through social media.

36:05 – Delegates ask Mark questions about social media engagement.

59:37 – End

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

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