Psychological profiling and forensic analysis — in social media?

Ever since Fritz Lang’s “M,” featuring a maniacal performance by Peter Lorre in the role of a marked man (literally – ! ) furtively evading a public stirred by published reports of a child molester on the loose, we’ve had a dark fascination with the mentality of criminals. They are pursued by cops, private eyes, private citizens, mobs and mobsters, and more recently, forensic professionals. Witch hunts aside, the two most common methods of capturing the criminal are with deductive or inductive reasoning: the analysis of evidence, or psychological insight. The pursuers either read the signs of the crime for the criminal behind it, or figure out where he’s likely to strike next based on a grasp of his motives and obsessions.

It would be interesting to apply this to social media analysis… One might use site and user behavior and activity to form a bed of evidence, and accompany that with insights into user psychology, habits, tastes, preferences, and other interests, for predictive purposes. With a solid framework marketers and advertisers might more successfully reach the right consumer at the right time. A multiply-targeted and designed campaign, scripted to appeal according to user interests, and launched into the user activities most likely to reach that consumer, and to provide the greatest benefit to the marketer, would eliminate some of the wasted effort of today’s online marketing.

It’s worth the thought. After all, it took decades for the film industry to produce the genres we’re familiar with today. At this time we’re still in the nascent stages of creating genres of social activity online — and truth be told most of them have been designed and engineered by, well, designers and engineers. Content owners and producers, those in publishing and entertainment for example, have yet to engage broadly in using social media tools not only to promote and distribute but to create and develop their properties. So what we know of social media is a reflection still of what the end user does with them — unencumbered by scripts or production value, but also perhaps wanting for more compelling experiences and narratives.

It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a marketing industry that takes advantage of the bridging opportunities here. Social media marketing vehicles might emerge that are far more interactive, narrative, engaging, and content-rich than the simple viral and pass-along popups and widgets we’re seeing even today. This might be a case of wishful thinking, it’s hard to tell. But it’s safe to say that we’ve yet to push the frontiers here.

We may still be in social media’s era of silent film. Could it be that we’ve yet to think of what we’ll do with the “talkies?”

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