Anatomy of Conversation

Paul Adams: Future of advertising is ‘many light weight interactions’

Paul Adams, the Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook and the author of ‘Grouped’, makes an interesting point about the future of advertising. I stumbled upon a video presentation of his at the fMC recently. That got me interested enough to buy his book, ‘Grouped’ which was a subject of much controversy between him and Google.

According to Paul Adams, every marketer should have three things in his new knowledge set to be able to tackle the rapidly evolving customer behavior in a connected world:

  1. Social behavior : Marketers should understand the ‘Why, What, Who, How’ of communication and how people observe, share and act within their networks
  2. Networks: The social networks are here to stay and marketers need to understand how they work in order to succeed
  3. How people think is affected by their biases, perception, non-conscious brain, past etc, relationships and interactions between people and products


Social behavior : Anatomy of communication

What caught my attention was his analysis of social behavior behind online communication, which I took the liberty to rename “Anatomy of communication”. Here’s a graphic representation of what he says:


People also talk about things in common, and for communal laughter and brands are talked about in passing and not full length political debate.


Paul Adams describes Networks with this graphic


All social networks like Facebook, Google+, etc. try and mimic a real life networks. People have close ties to only 10-15 people even online, not just in real life.

How People think: On how people could be wrongly understood

  • People are not rational thinkers
  • People don’t remember very well
  • People could be disproportionately influenced by people around us than by someone distantly connected.
  • Our perception, biases, habits, environment could affect our decisions wrongly

Coincidentally, while I was reading Grouped, I found an excellent example of Paul Adams’ theory in practice!

My wife asked me recently if I would like to have paneer for the evening snack. It was an unusual choice in a family of South Indian origin, so I asked her when she had learnt to cook paneer. She said ‘Facebook’! Apparently, there was a paneer recipe posted on its Page by Surf Excel Matic, a detergent brand.

Let us examine this against ‘light-weighted conversations’ theory:

Who did Surf Excel target?

At-home-moms with good Facebook presence, who like to cook and take care of the family. Oh, and they’re probably the decision makers for the detergent brand too!


Surf Excel is definitely not in food business. What’s a recipe doing on their Page? Notice that the number of shares is more than the number of comments. (BTW, Surf Excel is not my/company’s client.)

Take a look at the response thread for Surf Excel Matic’s post:


By striking a light-weighted conversation about a quick-cook recipe, they created a connection with their TG. If you analyze the ‘Why, What, Who, How’ of this conversation, you’ll see that the company predicted the social behavior of at-home-moms right. Notice that there is no talk of the product and how white your clothes will be after the paneer is cooked.

As this example shows, Brands are already adopting the new marketing principles online – light weight interactions.

Brands need to take the lead and initiate the interactions and also make them interesting enough to get a response and be spread around in the networks. Social Networks will choose who gets an update about this interaction depending on the type of interaction. Accordingly, social groups or interest groups notice the interaction and be a part of it. This is usually the same 10-15 people with whom we have the closest ties!

Since Paul Adams has a connection to both the giants, Facebook and Google+, I think one can safely follow what he is meaning to convey :-)



BTW, this is the first in a series of 3 blog posts that I wish to use to review Grouped and Paul Adams’ fMC talks.