Why social businesses, leaders and learners need to understand amplification

I was never much good at organised games at school. To be honest, i just wasn’t very engaged. Whilst the other boys were charging around the rugby pitch in the rain, sliding through the mud and acquiring scars to carry with pride, i was apt to be daydreaming at the back, looking at the trees or pondering why the ball was an odd shape.

Stoneface‘ Stoneham, the games master, had one strategy to deal with this: shouting. He was not a subtle man, more used to motivation by volume than leadership by consensus, and certainly not a man to stare and trees or ponder the meaning of ellipsoids. Not unless it would help you kick it over the goal line anyway.

So Stoneface would stand there bellowing at me and i’d stand there in my wet socks with mud up my legs pondering life, whilst we both failed to comprehend each other until it dawned on my that shouting ever more loudly will probably not get you far in life.

And anyway, why shout loudly when all you really need to do is be amplified by others?

Amplification of ideas

Ideas are amplified through networks. Understanding this process and making connections with the amplifiers is important for leaders, social business strategists and social learners

Amplification is the secret heart of social: it’s what makes memes travel around the world, what makes adverts go viral, it’s what gives good ideas a life of their own and ensures that bad ones sink. Amplification is what everyone wants, what everyone needs, but only a few can get.

Except old Stoneface of course. I think he shouted because he was just unhappy. I’d have been unhappy dealing with my ten year old self too.

Understanding amplification is important, because not everyone amplifies your messages. in fact, hardly anyone amplifies, and a tiny percentage of those who do will be relevant for your particular messages, because amplification is contextual: different people amplify different things. Social Leaders need to understand how their vision is amplified, social businesses need to understand the perils of amplification, social learners need to identify strong amplifiers and include them in their personal learning networks.

The Social Age is tied up in networks: connected individuals, each of whom in turn is connected out to others. It’s a tangled web we weave and it’s changing every minute of the day.

Building and curating the shape and structure of your network is important, as is your ability to shape and structure your messages to encourage amplification. Because everyone curates the content they share, to a greater or lesser extent, we can start to differentiate between those who add value to everything that passes them by, and those who simply recycle content. We can start to see those who are discerning in their messages and those who simply aren’t.

In the democratised age of publishing, everyone can publish, but we have lost the editorial role. Well, to a large extent, this role is picked up by the community, particularly the amplifiers. People who are discerning of what they see, as well as active in amplifying that which they like, act as the first line editors of social content.

Whenever either we (or organisations within the social marketplace) broadcast anything to our communities, some people consume (and leave it at that), whilst others amplify. The amplifiers may be shouting into empty space (if they are not well connected or have a low reputation for amplifying without discernment) or they may be speaking to the converted, preaching to a crowd that is hungry for more.

The great thing about connecting with amplifiers who have a strong reputation is that they have themselves curated a focused community: in theory, you can get a higher hit rate within those focussed communities than you can directly to the whole world.

In the Social Age, those people who are more adept at engaging with the amplifiers, and who curate a strong reputation for adding value to what they amplify, will be more influential, have a greater ability to build reputation. Organisations need to understand that this will not just happen through their formal channels, but through the informal ones too: people who sit entirely outside formal hierarchies of power and authority may curate strong reputations and build influence, entirely subverting formal structures. This can scare people significantly.

When messages are amplified within a community, they tend to gain momentum. The greater the amplification, the greater the momentum, especially when every discerning amplifier projects your messaging into ever more refined communities, who may share interests and be more amenable to what you have to say.

Eventually all but the most engaging messages will die out, but you can certainly influence how far your messages get, by crafting them well and curating a strong first line network. By being an effective amplifier yourself and by engaging with others, by building your own reputation and facilitating others to build theirs.

Getting a good grasp on amplification and momentum, much as getting a good grasp on a slippery, mud covered rugby ball, will get you far in the game.

Questions around amplification

Some key questions for individuals and organisations around amplification

Today’s blog is adapted from the writing i’m doing this week on my new book: ‘learning and working in the Social Age’.

You can see how the illustration for today’s post was created over here on Vine.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Authority, Broadcast, Choreography, Collaboration, Communication, Community, Connections, Engagement, Learning, Publishing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to Why social businesses, leaders and learners need to understand amplification

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  11. This reminds me of how interest groups in the US who wanted to communicate an idea or message would have designated people that would receive daily fax updates with messaging representing the interests of the organization. Not just anyone could sign up to receive the faxes. You needed to be chosen as one who would amplify the message on behalf of the organization. The people who received the faxes would then amplify the message by relaying it to their followers. They would simultaneously use and build their reputations as they did this. I remember hearing them on the radio saying things like this, “I just read my daily update fax from [insert prominent leader] and …”.

    The technology changes, but do the social principles?

    • julianstodd says:

      Neat story David, yes, similar, although i guess that the amplifiers in today’s social communities are qualified and accredited by their communities, not just selected by authority. It’s that very devolution of the authority that typifies the Social Age. Thanks for sharing the story and for being part of the community here and on Twitter, best wishes, Julian

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