Invitation is in the action

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FaceBook presents interesting fodder around a variety of topics including personal privacy, affiliation and community building. In some cases, those topics create interesting tension with each other. For example, in creating your profile you might add all of your intimate details (i.e. phone numbers, aliases, photographs). You then may join any variety of networks or groups where traditionally you managed your profile in how you socially engaged them. For example, in a work affiliated environment you might disclose something different from a support group or political action network. Furthermore, you might have tended to keep those affiliations to yourself. That photograph of your wild college experience probably is not something you were looking to share with your employer or your priest. Now, there are levels of access controls on elements of your profile, but participating means letting it all (most of it) hang out. To get the benefits you need to surrender your guard and jump in the ball pit.

Once you are invested in the space, your contacts begin interacting with you. Writing on your wall (e.g. like leaving a note on your door), sending hugs and looking to see how compatible you are with them by asking you to take a taste test. All fine and good if you understand what you are doing, where the data are being stored and how they are going to be used. With the constant creation of new FaceBook applications – components enable additional functionality – users are encouraged to add them to their profile. To receive a hug, you need to add an application like SuperPoke, which comes with both the terms and conditions of Facebook and the application developers. While FaceBook spells out their privacy policy and the limitation of personal information sharing (e.g. applications wont get your email address), what is considered personal is constantly evolving, as are terms and conditions. The invitation to join in the fun no longer shows up as an email, but as a hug that requires joining a network in the network to receive it or share it. Therein hides a bit of genius!

Instead of leading the interaction with signing up, enable participation to lead to the sign-up. This is powerful for three reasons:

  • First, interactions initiated from people we know, we trust, at least to some extent.
  • Second, the interaction is often context rich (e.g. I thought of you when I came across this book.) hiding the sub-context (e.g. signing up) in a genuine message and implicit endorsement.
  • Third, joining in enables action and reciprocation, something people tend to do if only in polite acknowledgment.

Tie the goals of a primary task to the motivations of a secondary task, engaging the collective in what is of self-interest, while satisfying the true activity.