Shout loudest and you will be heard on the internet

Guy Kawasaki is an American venture capitalist who knows a thing or two about the world of technology. As a former Apple employee he has been involved with Silicon Valley businesses for over 25 years. He is an adviser to several leading technology companies and is a prolific writer, blogger and speaker. He is in high demand.


Guy Kawasaki

But I have a problem with him; I am sure he is a nice chap, who is a real expert in his field. I’ve never met him even though he follows me on Twitter and I follow him. Or I did. I switched him off (unfollowed him) because I was fed up with being “shouted at” by his Tweets. Each day I’d get several tweets from him, often all at the same time. I suspect it is partly automated, but getting about a dozen tweets all at the same time from the same person felt like he was demanding constant attention from me. And no matter how brilliant Guy is, I simply don’t have the time to deal with his long list of interruptions.

And therein lies the problem. We don’t like being interrupted that frequently from someone – no matter how much respect we have for them. Probably if the dozen tweets that were often sent out all at the same time had been spread over several hours, I wouldn’t have taken against him so much. But by sending out a clutch of tweets at the same time it just felt like he was trying to crowd out all the other people I was following. It was rather like being in a group of people in a bar, where one person interrupts and dominates the conversation all the time. It is uncomfortable and the person becomes unlikeable.

But, has Guy Kawasaki got Twitter wrong, or is it me? After all, he has almost 130,000 followers and I only have 2,000. Seems like he is more popular than me…! So he must be doing something right. The answer lies not in the way he uses Twitter, but in his other activities and an age-old psychological finding, backed up by a recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

At first sight it might seem that we get annoyed by people who “shout the loudest” – the publicity seekers, the people who are always in the limelight, the constant Twitterers. But in the absence of people disagreeing with them, it turns out that the quietness of others means the loudest person’s view wins through. For instance, if you are at work and someone voices an opinion, but no-one disagrees, the assumption you make is that everyone else agrees (even if they don’t). If the person repeats their view, it further emphasises the fact that they “must be right”.

The latest findings published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, by Weaver and colleagues, show that if just one person in the group repeats the opinion, it further emphasises that the original viewpoint “must be” correct. In other words it appears to be merely the absence of alternative viewpoints that make a particular opinion accepted as “fact”. If you keep “shouting” your views and opinions, they will get accepted as fact if two conditions apply – firstly, there are few opponents to what you say and secondly some people repeat your view.

So what does this all mean for your online business? It means that, like Guy Kawasaki, you need to be prolific. You need to be shouting your ideas from the highest rooftops of the online world and getting other people to repeat them (retweeting in Twitter terms). It means constant blogging, tweeting, article writing, speaking, going to meetings – just “being seen”. The more widely your views are expressed, the more they will become accepted as “right”, assuming you have little opposition to what you say. Most businesses don’t do anywhere near enough “shouting”. Celebrities and “celebrity businesses” such as Virgin, Apple and so on, simply never stop talking about what they can offer us. They constantly turn up in all the right places, they are never out of the headlines and they are seemingly everywhere online.

There is also a further psychological impact of all this “shouting”; we don’t see the negatives. The opposition to the “shouters” gets drowned out, we can only see the positive views the companies or individuals are expressing. And that goes to emphasise that they must be “right”. It further turns the screw, making sure we are constantly on their side. If your business is not shouting the loudest in your sector, you end up an also-ran. Shouting out loud turns out to be psychologically positive, even though at first sight it might seem contemptible.

It means that, unlike me, Guy Kawaski is doing the right thing by flooding Twitter with his tweets; I’ll just have to follow him again….!

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