Pre-Cognitive Social Media: Share First, Think Later?

By: Guest | December 13, 2010 | 

Editor’s note: Today’s guest author, Troy Costlow, a graduate student who likes books and math, was a winner of our 9 Marketing Trends for 2011 contest, in which we asked readers to submit the ninth trend for our upcoming webinar of the same name, which will be held on December 15. (It’s not too late to sign up!) Following are further thoughts on his submitted trend, pre-cognitive social sharing. In the webinar, we will discuss how to adjust your business to leverage all nine trends.

Social media is making us better people. Those of us who chose to opt in traded our privacy for a network of peers, mentors, leaders, and friends who provide advice, counsel, and endless entertainment.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely, yes. It improves existing relationships and builds new ones. Of course it’s worth it.

Quicker and more accurate information will continue to improve these relationships – and today social media’s biggest limitation is that we can only share things we are aware of. Using social media is not an automatic act: We think first, and share afterwards.

The cognitive process for social media is this:

  1. An event occurs.
  2. You think, “I should share this with people.”
  3. You use social tools to share that event with your network.

This “think first, share second” process can be inverted to “share first, learn second,” and the roots for that change are already being planted. We can begin sharing information before the thought of sharing occurs by using systems designed to share pre-cognitive information with our social networks.

Smart-pill technology from companies like Novartis already allows this pre-cognitive sharing to improve the relationship between doctors and patients. When Alzheimer’s patients swallow a robotic pill, the stomach acids react with the circuitry, which in turn sends a signal to a cell phone, which informs the doctor that their patients are doing what’s instructed.

It’s all automatic. No “I should share this” thought is required, so the process is sped up tremendously and results in a much better doctor-patient relationship.

Smart-driving technology from companies like Inrix is already sharing information with other vehicles to improve (begin?) communication between drivers. Today, all we have are turn signals and an occasional “salute.” Soon – without our direct input – systems will share information to suggest up-to-date alternative routes and cut down the time we spend in traffic.

“Other drivers” is a social network we rarely think about, though we spend an hour or more with them every day – and automatic sharing will improve our relationship with other drivers.

This automatic, pre-cognitive sharing can quickly be interwoven with all of our social networks – our colleagues, our friends, our families, and our extended networks.

Computers, web browsers, and smart phones already track incalculable amounts of information about us, understand our routines, and create accurate predictions of our future activities. Marketers already use this information to tailor their messages and offerings, and there’s no reason we won’t soon be using things like geo-marketing to do the same for ourselves.

“Troy just left his house and will be 30 minutes late again,” is an automatic message my friends should receive when geo-tracking notices my “showing up late” routine continues and I’ve finally left my home. It’s much more accurate than my usual, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes. If I’m not there soon, I’ll send this again.”

Automatic, pre-cognitive sharing will convey more accurate information more quickly with our social networks, and ultimately improve our relationships – and isn’t that largely the point of the social media experience?

Troy Costlow is a graduate student who likes books and math. He recently completed his MBA in marketing and finance, and is currently working on an MS in accountancy at DePaul University while studying for the CPA and CFA exams.

  • HowieSPM

    It’s really true we shoot first think later. You see all the people getting busted saying dumb stuff on Twitter. There also was a big agency guy who left for a tech company last summer and turned out he was checking in on FourSquare when he was interviewing.

    This really has been the case with all Social Media technologies but after a time we get less open and more cautious. Usually it’s when you google yourself or find something you didn’t expect to be shared beyond a certain group, completely out there. I myself have stopped tweeting many of my 4SQ checkins and culled my Twitpics down because some photos I had no problem sharing that moment, but not long term. I wonder if this curve is why Facebook has seen a 22% reduction in time spent per person on the network each day since April. People less giddy and more private so less to share?

    That being said I see so many benefits you laid out of what kind of services can be delivered. I would love to know how far away my friends are when going to dinner so I can choose to get a table or wait at the bar. And I think services that are private and give us these benefits will be home runs in the market place.

  • Great thoughts.

    I’m definitely one who likes to tweet things immediately, especially random pictures of funny, cool, weird, etc. things. As @HowieSPM said, I often shirt first and think later.

    As for geo-tracking, I think the points you hit on are exciting. I’m curious to see what happens with “driver intelligence” in the future, especially in regards to one car interacting with another. It’s amazing stuff.

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  • You definitely got my head spinning with this post, troycostlow ; and thanks to ginidietrich for having Troy on spinsucks .

    As someone who spends a good portion of my day (and life!) in my car, I have often thought about the amount of productivity that is being lost while driving. When I read the techcrunch article about Google testing self-driving cars, my imagination began running wild. Then I read this line and I was amazed I didn’t think of it earlier:

    “’Other drivers’ is a social network we rarely think about”

    Social networks have definitely shown signs of switching from active sharing to passive sharing. The amount of effort it takes to share data is ultimately the barrier that keeps it from being shared. The smaller this barrier becomes, the better we become at sharing, filtering, and absorbing information.

    We have certainly only scratched the vast surface of how we share data. I am VERY excited to see what the future holds.

  • TroyCostlow

    @JMattHicks @HowieSPM Yeah, there have been quite a few times I’ve gone back through my tweets or my facebook posts & thought, “Why on earth did I share that?”

    My… let’s call it ‘online maturity’ is growing with experience, though I find myself willing to share more information than companies can currently turn to good use. So it’s interesting to watch that gap close slowly.

    Also, side point – whoever gets elected president in 2028 currently has drunk-pics on facebook. Same for future Fortune 500 CEO’s. Think about how awesome it’s going to be when that helps bring down barriers…

  • TroyCostlow

    @JonHearty ginidietrich Yes, definitely – you’re so completely on point that it’s awesome – and I’m happy to know that we agree on much of this. The social-media chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and since the technology is passing us, our brains – and the required ‘effort,’ as you so succinctly put it – will soon be that weak link. And I’m with you on being excited to see what this holds. So many people seem frightened of losing privacy or of change in general, but I find this all SO exciting…

  • troy costlow Thanks for reminding me!

    Those of us who chose to opt in traded our privacy for a network of peers, mentors, leaders, and friends who provide advice, counsel, and endless entertainment.

    This was SO ON POINT. Thanks for this insight; it will certainly be a line I remember and refer back to! Thanks again for the post and I hope to read some more of your stuff soon!

  • ginidietrich

    @JonHearty troy costlow During our Inside PR recording for tomorrow, we discussed how the automobile was the pretty new shiny object, but the real expansion was not in people buying cars, but in allowing the spread of homes to the suburbs. So you’re right in that we’ve barely scratched the surface – we have no idea where the social networks are really going to take us.

  • TroyCostlow

    @ginidietrich @JonHearty Definitely – the side effects of this technology will be amazing.
    In politics & corruption, they say that ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant,’ and the kids who are growing up today with SM as the norm will be naturally accustomed to sharing because that’s all they’ve ever known. That future of sharing-as-the-default-option, in politics, business, and everything else, will be shockingly different from what we know today. Secrets will be damn near impossible, and we’ll all have access to everything. That excites me so much…

  • TroyCostlow

    I had no idea other people were dropping facebook usage by 22%, and your logic completely makes sense on why.
    I stopped using foursquare a lot, too – largely because it didn’t offer anything useful after the initial “This is kinda cool” shock wore off. I’d still be willing to share if they gave me anything in return, but they don’t. Privacy is like currency – we’re willing to exchange it for something better, but the reward/return needs to be there.
    And I do think there’s a difference between two types of ‘not thinking.’ There’s “Sharing before you adequately consider the consequences” – which is something we’ve all done as we’re getting used to social media – vs. “sharing things before your brain even thinks of them,” which is a largely untapped resource.

    Any other thoughts on potential home-runs?