The Importance of Being Awesome

by Faris on Dec 21, 2011

Did you know awesome used to mean the same thing as terrible?

In the etymological history of the words, both were used interchangeably to describe the presence of God – something that inspired awe or terror.

It is in this archaic sense that awesomeness is important for brands, media and people because of a fundamental shift in the nature of the mediascape.

Media is fundamentally changing

Moore’s Law’s is now the driving force of change in media.

Moore’s Law is, in fact, more a trend of hardware computing history. Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, described in a 1965 paper how the amount of  transistors we can squeeze on to an integrated circuit board doubles roughly every two years, as the cost halves.

This in turn means computers get faster and cheaper, and memory gets cheaper as well.

The price of a gigabyte of memory in 1981: $300,000

The price of a gigabyte of memory in 2010: $0.10

[Source]

This tendency to exponentiate is the biggest driver of change in your world and it’s really, really weird.

Nothing else changes like this. Cars don’t get twice as fast and half as expensive every two years. Neither do refrigerators. In fact, nothing does except computers.

And now media, because ever since media became digital and therefore a function of memory, the amount of available media bandwidth is a function of Moore’s Law.

Then there is social

Now, with the internet, we have, essentially, infinite media space.

And, practically, infinite amounts of content, thanks to that media we call social.

Previously, the ability to make things public, to publish, was a privileged act.

Only governments, the media-industrial complex, and advertisers, could really do it.

Now, everyone is making content and culture all the time, which presents new kinds of challenges – how do you get any attention in an infinite space?

Awesomeness is the answer.

We are in a stage of transition, where human interpersonal networks are going to supplement or substitute commercial broadcast networks.

Facebook is turning itself into a media browser, where sharing content is the primary way we see anything – 52% of all content sharing online is done on Facebook.

As professor Henry Jenkins says in his upcoming book: “if it doesn’t spread, its dead.”

Media products act like solidarity goods – a permanent economic class of goods that become more valuable the more they are consumed. So, if no one sees it, it’s not worth anything. The more it spreads, the more eyeballs it accrues, the more its worth.

And, thanks to Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm, if content isn’t shared, it may not get seen much at all in people’s newsfeeds.

So – what spreads?

It turns out awesomeness is the single biggest driver of sharing.

Studies done by the New York Times show that the most shared articles on their site are ones that inspire awe.

Specifically, things that are epic in scope and require “mental accommodation by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.”

“They’re seeking emotional communion, Dr. Berger said.

“Emotion in general leads to transmission, and awe is quite a strong emotion,” he said. “If I’ve just read this story that changes the way I understand the world and myself, I want to talk to others about what it means. I want to proselytize and share the feeling of awe.”

It’s the same driver that made early hominids that encountered the aurora borealis burning in the sky run to find someone to show it too.

Clay Shirky says:

“Behavior is motivation filtered through opportunity”.

The motivation to share awe is ingrained, the opportunities represented by social media are ever increasing.

So if you want people to see and share your content – make it awesome.

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Post Author

Faris is// Chief Innovation Officer / kbs+ Founding Partner/ Spies&Assassins President / New Category, London International Awards Juror / One Show Interactive, Effies, Jay Chiat Awards Author /Talent Imitates, Genius Steals Instructor / Boulder Digital Works Speaker / Lots of places, most recently Mashable Media Summit...

  • http://www.worob.com/ Worob

    Can awesomeness be learned/taught, or is it a case of you either have it and know what awesome content is or you don’t?

    @Worob:twitter 
    PR at Sunrise (worob.com)

  • http://twitter.com/sloanemag Sloane Magazine

    Fantastic, informed and insightful piece— thank you! 

  • http://minimanifestos.com/ Bryan Jones

    And that should be the most liberating thing for clients, they have the power to be awesome and win the right to be heard and shared.

  • http://www.jumbocortex.com/think mkedave

    And then sometimes, you don’t always choose awesome, awesome chooses you. 

  • http://www.knightopia.com Steve Knight

    Awesome article!  I’m sharing it … right … now …

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  • http://magicbeanlab.com mediaczar

    From the ineffable awesomeness of the divine being to… talking dogs and semi-literate cats. Oh — and while the NYT may concentrate on the epic, other media tend to focus more on retailing stories about the Kardashians, Jersey Shore and the non-existent iPhone 5.

    I like your optimism, Faris, but with a few years of planning and analysing large-scale social media campaigns, I’m becoming a bit bearish on humanity.

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  • Craig Elimeliah

    smart.

  • http://waldowsocial.com DJ Waldow

    You can’t go wrong being awesome. Coincidentally, awesome is one of my 4 favorite words.

  • Joy

    Awesome!

  • http://JoselinMane.com JoselinMane

    Great stuff, I love all the source material very Geek chic ;-)

  • @Friday1st

    Thanks for sharing this Faris, first time I’ve read this concept expressed so articulately.
    Up until now I believed that being remarkable was sufficient – looks like I’ll have to up my game.

  • http://twitter.com/megcal Meghan Callaghan

    I’d say this post inspires awe in me…and so I will be sharing it. Very nicely put!

  • http://let5ch.tumblr.com/ Tim Letscher

    Terrific post. 
    …wait for it…

  • http://twitter.com/KellyKapowsky Kelly Sheehan

    You are awesome. Sold. Shared.

  • http://twitter.com/faris Faris

    thanks! 

  • http://twitter.com/faris Faris

    thank you! 

  • http://twitter.com/faris Faris

    well thank you! 

  • SouthsideAdguy

    Brilliant read Faris… you changed the mindset of some young talent when we visited in NYC! You’re AWESOME… We should all be awesome!

    Keep rocking’ the world my friend.

  • http://twitter.com/skypulsemedia Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    I love you Faris. But no one shares on facebook. The fact is based on the data we post a status update once every 6 days and we comment once every four days and we us a Facebook App once ever 40 days.

    But the point of this post is key. I blogged today about the limited superpowers of social media. We might post a link or share. But taking action and resharing rarely happens. It only happens in 3 ways. A big bribe. Outrage. Or something is so awesome we can’t not share it.

    Just think if everyone of my 2000 connections in my combined twitter and facebook networks each posted just one awesome item each day. I would never sleep or have time to eat. Logically the level of sharing, of interest in sharing, and the power of social media is severely limited due to time and other interests. When it comes to brands our interest is even lower than walking our dog and picking up the poo. 

    But when you are in that 0.001% where something is a huge bribe, is outrageous (see Papa Johns uproar), or completely awesome you will go viral. But being awesome is really hard and really rare.

  • http://twitter.com/faris Faris

    thanks everyone! 

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