Winning the Social Media Marketing Game
Thousands of years ago, clans gathered around fires to share their day’s experiences and to tell stories that established group norms and shaped social organization. Today, the fire’s embers have been replaced by the glow of internet-connected devices, but the communal exchange of stories and perspectives remains a fundamental force in social development.
From a business standpoint, a few important differences emerge from this evolution. Social media users can now publicly discuss their experiences with brands or products, forming large coalitions of interest that exert vast social pressure on brands and other organizations. From the presidential election to the newest cereal, everything is now a matter of public interest.
The essential principle, however, of shaping our world by sharing stories remains the same. The connections we build with others around us are the infrastructure of social change. Understanding how these connections are formed on social media, the purpose of these connections and how they can be leveraged is foundational to social media marketing.
Understanding social mechanics with game theory
Though the need to participate in social exchange is obvious, it has proved challenging to effectively model how social systems work, especially when considering the impact of new media and technology on societal discourse. Game theory, a mathematical evaluation of competition and cooperation between interested actors, is a promising solution.
Despite what its name may suggest, game theory has little to do with “games” as we might typically think of them. It seeks instead to understand how rational participants, bound by a set of rules, respond to different stimuli. The application of game theory to social media can help us identify the objectives of social media users, and how they work to achieve them.
The “players” of the social media “game” are clearly the users — brands and consumers alike. Brands use social media to reach new customers, build a loyal audience and respond to consumer reviews, while the private social media user wants to keep up with friends, stay current and participate in social conversations about matters large and small.