The Bedroom of Your Brand’s House
Entertain an idea with me: Social media is the bedroom in your brand’s house.
It’s the place your brand spends time after normal work hours, a place where your brand is just a little more comfortable and conversational; and it’s perhaps the best place to organize and address your brand’s “dirty laundry” to prepare for another day of meeting the public.
And it’s where — perhaps more than any other physical place — your brand’s personality is on display.
In his 2005 book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” Malcolm Gladwell describes an experiment carried out by psychologist Samuel Gosling. In this experiment, Gosling conducted a survey with 80 college students, examining in their personalities what he calls the Big Five Inventory, a respected system of determining the following five “dimensions” of character. It specifically examines:
- Extraversion. Are you sociable or retiring?
- Agreeableness. Are you trusting or suspicious?
- Conscientiousness. Are you organized or disorganized?
- Emotional Stability. Are you worried or calm?
- Openness to New Experience. Are you imaginative or down to earth? (Gladwell 35)
In Gosling’s experiment, individuals first filled out the questionnaire for themselves. Then, close friends of those individuals filled it out — based on their friend. He wanted to find out how well they knew their friends. He found that they knew them quite well, which was unsurprising, as Gladwell and Gosling surmise, because these friends have what Gladwell calls “a thick slice of experience” with their friends. They’ve seen them in a myriad of situations and seasons.
But then Gosling did it again: this time with strangers who’d never met the individuals. Instead, they were given access to these individuals’ bedrooms.
Each stranger was given 15 minutes in the bedroom with a simplified questionnaire: “On a scale of 1 to 5, does the inhabitant of this room seem to be the kind of person who is talkative? Tends to find fault with others? Does a thorough job? Is original? Is reserved? Is helpful and unselfish with others?”
The results? Gosling found that in the first two categories — Extraversion and Agreeableness — the actual friends were closer in their estimations. But what about in the other three categories? Overwhelmingly, the strangers in the bedrooms were “more accurate at measuring” the individual in Conscientiousness, Emotional Stability, and Openness to New Experience.
Gladwell summarizes: “What this suggests is that it is quite possible for people who have never met us and who have spent only twenty minutes thinking about us to come to a better understanding of who we are than people who have known us for years.”
So here’s my question: What is your social media saying about your brand?
Strangers come from all over the world — their News Feed on Facebook, the right hashtag in a tweet, a common connection on LinkedIn — and end up spending a few minutes with your brand. If this metaphor holds true, what do these strangers leave with? Who do they think you are after 20 minutes in your brand’s bedroom?