About six months ago in the NY Times, Clive Thompson published "The Brave New World Of Digital Intimacy" – one of the most brilliant explorations of the cultural context of social media written to date (and well worth a read if you have not yet seen it). In the article, he talked about the idea of virtual connectedness and how our "ambient awareness" of all that our friends and family are doing is helping us to grow closer to one another, and perhaps become more self aware of ourselves in the process.
Among the more inspired parts of the article was when he described every piece of social information as "little snippets coalesce[ing] into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting." As each of us creates this painting, we are sharing the combination of information that helps anyone in our social network to know us better. The interesting extension of this idea is that we are also creating a "reverb" with all that we do.
A reverb (or reverberation) is typically used to describe sound – or more specifically the instance where a sound continues despite the original source of the sound being removed. Extended beyond sound, the idea of a social media reverb is that every action in social media is not just done, but also broadcast across a particular individual's social graph online. The newsfeed on Facebook is an example of this, as it not only announces life changes and hourly moods, but also whether someone is going to an event or not and what groups or causes someone supports. On Twitter, who you follow and retweeting posts are further examples of this concept. There are even tools like MyBlogLog that you can join in order to broadcast and share each time you visit and read a particular blog.
What does this mean for your brand? In social media marketers are often tempted to think in terms of absolutes … either a blogger writes about your campaign or cause – or they don't. What the social media reverb should teach you is that every action, from declining an event invite on Facebook (but still broadcasting it to your friends) to just visiting and reading your blog (without leaving a comment) has value. In a world where we are enjoying ambient awareness of one another's lives, one reason for any brand to engage with social media should be the opportunity to stand out as part of that ambiance.