THERMODYNAMIC STORYTELLING

My love affair with social media strategy recently began by happenstance.  Out of necessity, situations at work called for someone, at the very minimum, to work as a community manager.  As the cliché goes in the military, I “Rogered Up,” having no clue that was the actual title of what I was getting myself into.  But that’s the kind of person I am: someone who would jump on the grenade rather than cower away from it.  Okay.  Enough with the military locutions.

By nature I am a storyteller.  I love to tell stories through video, photography, graphics and writing.  My style can be very illusory at times, but a labor of love nonetheless.  When you combine the four mediums, being careful to respect the intrinsic strengths of each, the collective story narrates more dynamically than in singularity.  This is called ‘transmedia’.

I found the same principles within social media.  Each platform is separate in function and expression.  To effectively tell a brand’s or an organization’s ‘story,’ it is counter-intuitive to post the same style of message across each toolset.  In the entertainment industry, this is called ‘crossmedia.’  Crossmedia differs from transmedia, in that the same narrative style and delivery differentiates only through digital rendering for each platform (i.e. computer, tablet, smart phone, etc.).  However, mirroring across each platform does not help develop a story any further.  The very same concept applies to social media.

Best practices in social media dictate the requirement for variation in delivery.  Psychologically, followers expect different styles and angles of a ‘story’ on each of their expressive platforms.  If not, what’s the use of following a brand’s or an organization’s Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and etcetera profiles?  They are all saying the same thing – probably through automation.  You can’t mask the smell of automation just as much as you can’t mask the smell of charred turkey on Thanksgiving.  ImageSeriously.  That’s why God invented the timer and thermometer.  And that is why social media strategy is necessary.  It is the regulating ‘tempuratic timer,’ or regulation of storytelling ‘thermodynamics.’  The basic definition of thermodynamics is:

 “It defines macroscopic variables (such as temperatureinternal energyentropy, and pressure) that characterize materials and radiation, and explains how they are related and by what laws they change with time. Thermodynamics describes the average behavior of very large numbers of microscopic constituents, and its laws can be derived from statistical mechanics.”

Before you scoff at me for being tangential, let me relate back to my point.  I love storytelling.  I love the idea of telling one story in varying ways through different mediums.  This is called transmedia. I have a new love for social media because a similar dynamic can be achieved through strategizing across different social media platforms.  Both ideological practices convect quantities of “temperature, energy and entropy” towards “absolute zero,” or “Thermodynamic equilibrium:” The achievement of balance.  You maximize a story’s impact by developing balance of enterprising values across different mediums and platforms.  Complicated simplicity, right?

Don’t judge me for just “geeking out.”  Due to their relatively conceptual newness, it is very difficult to define transmedia and social media strategy – kind of like trying to describe color to a blind person.  Again with the clichés… I promise I knew nothing about thermodynamics until writing this.  And I made up a new word: ‘temperatic.’ I may have even related the concept to my point incorrectly.  Or maybe not.  It makes sense in my head.  Hopefully it makes sense in yours.

“Law of Thermodynamics” Animated Song

Transmedia Storytelling: An Introduction

I consider it a privilege to watch any industry evolve in lieu of innovation.  Some consider change a threat, while others move with the tide.  But it’s really more than a tide.  Tides move in and out, but the substance of that tide remains the same, returning to its previous state.  However, with innovative evolution, something new emerges from combining elements of old.  Such is the case with storytelling.

Sharing stories are not necessarily told now through one channel alone.  Instead, the most effective practice involves employing multiple channels to tell varying dynamics of a single story.  This is called “Transmedia Storytelling.”  Unlike ‘crossmedia,’ where a story contained within one form is spread across different technological platforms (i.e. TV to PC to tablet to smart phone), ‘transmedia’ builds a universe around the story. The essence of the story is blown outside the boundaries of its initial scripting.  For example: During a film’s production, social media campaigns create ‘buzz’, while interactive evangelists create surrounding worlds through games and other tactile activities.  There are many ways to approach transmedia, but the core concept is to involve audiences beyond the traditional one-way exhibition, creating, as Brian Cain of Story Lab says, a “persistent experience across multiple platforms.”   

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There are still some audience members who prefer non-involvement.  But for those of us who want more ‘context,’ or want the story to continue farther outside its narrative, transmedia campaigns broaden the playing field.  Brian Cain says that, in his podcast titled, “The Story of Transmedia Marketing Stories,” transmedia is about enriching the “story world” by letting fans take over the brand.  Through ‘touch,’ that emotional and psychological investment deepens the experience on a very personal and individual level.  It becomes theirs.  They become a part of it, determining the lifespan of a brand.

This begins my series on Transmedia Storytelling’s essential role in various forms of media exploration, marketing strategies, and brand positioning. All things start with a story worth telling.  How that story is told will determine its relevance and resonance to, and the impact on the audience – or customer. The transmedia strategy has proved to be incredibly effective in achieving these goals.

The Art of “Cramming”

I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. “Woo hoo…” you may say as you roll your eyes.  “Would you like a hero cookie?”  Actually, yes.  I would love one.  But I am gluten intolerant, so keep that in mind…  What’s my point?  Having spent a lot of time in school, I’ve become quite apt at cramming information into my head, hoping the mashed sweet potatoes of content makes a beautiful passing-grade casserole.  I love sweet potatoes.  They are really good for you…  But so is attending to your professional development.  Right now I’m studying to take a “Social Media Strategist” certification exam.  Well, kind of.  At this VERY SECOND I’m taking a “time out” to write a blog post.  But my motivation comes from the fact that, I’m studying to become a Social Media Strategist.  So, then writing a blog post is right in line with my curriculum.  Indeed!  But I digress from the topic at hand.  Moving on. 

As a “right-brainer,” I’ve embraced the reality that I learn most at the eleventh hour.  It’s true.  Most of my artistic creativity comes in a similar fashion, as well.  More often than not, creation ends up being a really messy experience. When I edit video, I tend to chuck anything that looks ‘pretty’ onto the timeline.  I then dig through aggressively, rearranging the puzzle pieces into a coherent story arch.  The same goes for studying.  I haphazardly through my brain at the wall of information and hope some of it will stick.  But I don’t hope so much, anymore.  I KNOW.  I know it will stick.  I know the swirling gray matter in my head will make sense of it.  I proved that to myself by finishing two degrees.  I’ve also realized that “Learning How to Learn” is the value I draw from school, more so than the certificate or topical specificity.  However, my contentment in that evolves into joy when I find myself passionate about what I’m learning.  Such is the case.  Right now.  I’m invigorated by the challenge of learning new things in the arena of social media, and I’m honestly excited to take a test on it.  That’s more than I can say for ANY college test I’ve taken.  Why?  I don’t really know.  Maybe it’s because I’m not being forced to.  It doesn’t feel like an obligation, and I’m truly in love with it. I’ve again found something I can sink my teeth into – and that actually tastes good. Then again… The pounding sound of house music in the background may be the reason for my invigoration, or I may just be excited because my oven temperature is now high enough to bake my sweet potatoes for dinner.  Either way, I’m in good spirits and looking forward to my exam. 

 And my sweet potatoes. 

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