Social Tactics: Fear

by Jay Deragon on 09/28/2010

The real-time web creates fear in those that don’t understand it because it threatens power, positions and opinions from those in authority.

People develop specific fears as a result of learning.  In the real world, fear can be acquired by  frightening changes reported by the media.

Although fear is learned, the capacity to fear is part of human nature. Human nature has been both conditioned and is naturally selective to fear that which they don’t understand.

Main stream media reports on events and use the natural emotion of fear to influence an audience. We see if happening in politics and the spin machines. Fear this policy, this candidate, this event followed by their rationale aimed at evoking fear.

We can also see it in the reporting of this thing called social media. Dramatic stories are reported relative to young adults using social media irresponsibly, irrationally and propagating negative behavior with their peers. We see reporting of privacy issues, marketing campaigns which have back fired on the brand and example after example of behavior which reflects reckless abandonment of previously accepted behavioral norms of the human network. Previously accepted behavioral norms are those things the human network has been led to believe.

Fear of Social Media

Business models of the past 100 years came from beliefs founded on command and control structures. These models perpetuated hierarchical organizational designs believed to be the best way to organize people and things aimed at producing financial results.    These mental models perpetuated year after year and the human network was forced to work within the confines of such models. Produce or get out of the way was the cultural emotion which was used to influence the human network to produce. If the network didn’t produce then politics, powers and culture used fear as the primary motivator of influence.

Now a new dynamic surrounds the very fabric of the human network. The new dynamic is the influence of the human networks ability to communicate anything, anytime and with anyone which are creating a reverse influence on old business models and related beliefs. The reverse influence represents  institutions  fearing the human network’s use of social media. We see evidence in the issuance of restrictive polices trying to control people’s use of social media.

Responses to Fear

Whenever market dynamics change corporations try to adjust and or lead another change. Historically markets have changed as a result of competitive pressures created by competition and economic changes. Today the competitive forces are  the human networks response to how and what corporations introduce to the marketplace.

The dynamics of the human network and the represented influence over markets has corporations and institutions attempting to influence these dynamics using this thing we call social media. Old business models and mindsets are chasing the ROI of their efforts while not recognizing that said efforts may be grounded in the wrong beliefs. The desire and demand for ROI comes from beliefs in “managing by results” vs. “managing by methods”. The difference between the two represents a difference in belief. Any business method, including and especially communications, not connected to common beliefs of the human network is disconnected with the human network. Business networks grounded in old business models think more about results than they do methods. You cannot produce lasting results using the wrong methods.

Measures are important but measuring the wrong thing creates fear. Why? Because unless your results satisfy the bosses beliefs your efforts are considered worthless. The fear of not producing results causes tampering with methods to satisfy the top while ignoring what influences results, satisfying people at the bottom.

Stealing and paraphrasing FDR’s famous speech may shed light on these changing times. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our changing world. The human network will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let us assert our firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified tactics which paralyzes needed efforts to  advanced our thinking. In every change  in human history a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to progress.

To capitalize on the value of the human network we must change our beliefs and subsequently our methods. Results will come but only when we stop fearing that which the human network already knows, trust and has discovered. Each other.


Dan October 2, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Jay; Awesome string of posts on tactics. Fear is cheaper to deploy than education, entertainment, a court system, police, etc. In times of a failed financial system, fear is the biggest bang for the buck in managing people. Why? Because they fear us. You’d think that people would figure out who actually holds the power.

vins82 (vincenzo carbone) September 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm

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eaglesflite (Dale Lawrence) September 29, 2010 at 1:06 pm

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Steven H September 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I love that quote from FDR.

I think we often fear the unknown. Fear then becomes an inhibitor to knowledge and evolution. However, fear is not all bad. We can learn from fear by noticing what it is that makes us afraid, why we are afraid, and how we can overcome that.

Great article! I hope to be coming back for more in the near future!

Gabriele Maidecchi September 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

A very big fear I see all the time is also the fear of corporations and brands to break free from the control-freak schema of managing their business affairs. When you put the user at the center of your business, *for real* and not just following a meaningless slogan, like it happens with social media, brands start fearing the real feedback their products or services will receive from the real world, and not just through some filtered user satisfaction polls.
In the end, I think it’s a pretty damn good thing to have fear, it makes you improve, it pushes your boundaries to a new level. Am I wrong?

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