One or two of you will know I have published two books of very little success: you can find the appropriate links on the right-hand side panel ➔➔➔➔➔➔,
Originally this piece was meant to be a synopsis for my third book, but writing in large parcels is boring, so it may never bloom into the full format.
Although the remarks in this essay are of a general nature, I will make references to the M5S system(*) to illustrate my points. Their success is the best testimony of the soundness of the professional advice contained in my books, although it is NOT the result of its direct application, but rather a case of contemporary invention (**).
To be honest, I think they have carried “our” model much further than I had imagined, so I feel it’s time to give my side a refresh to include these latest developments.
The LASER analogy
The first element I need to add is something I called the LASER effect; the word LASER is an acronym which means Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation and its physics, called Optoelectronics, are quite complex and certainly beyond the scope of this short essay (although I proudly remember scoring a very decent 28/30 in my time).
In layman terms, however, a laser is an optical cavity between two mirrors being “pumped” with energy: light injected in the cavity bounces back and forth between the mirrors and, thanks to one of the many miracles of quantum physics, it gets amplified at each passage ON EXACTLY THE SAME FREQUENCY AND PHASE of the incident light, eventually escaping from one of the two mirrors, which is only partially opaque.
What makes the laser so unique is the coincidence between incoming and outgoing light: a ray comes in and a thousand rays come out with precisely the same frequency and phase.
This coherence is the reason a laser beam travels so much further than an ordinary light ray (for example to carry a signal to the Moon and back), or why it can deliver a very concentrated amount of energy in a small region (for example for microcircuit etching) or why it can “read” microscopic optical details on a surface without touching it (for example in a CD or DVD). A laser is the superhero of light rays.
From Optoelectronics to Communications
Now transpose this to communications: if you could amplify a message the same way you do with a light ray, preserving frequency and phase, this message would travel much farther and would deliver a much stronger punch.
In my book, I explain how a proper “tuning” to the spontaneous interests of a community ensures a story is much more successful. I also describe the mechanisms to perform this tuning, by means of something called ontological analysis.
The great revolution of digital marketing is no more than this: instead of relying on the shaky intel provided by market research which usually carries A LOT of inference, now people express their view in public forums in written form – give me a little time and with some ontological analysis I can tell you with amazing precision what’s in their minds.
If tuning is not a problem, then we already have the amplification mechanism: if topics A, B and F are much stronger than C, D and G, all I have to do to make my message “resonate” (another word stolen from physics) is to push out much more A, B and F than C, D and G.
What is the equivalent of the optical cavity? Some place saturated with A, B and F where the message will bounce back and forth between mirrors gaining strength at each passage; it’s important that the radiation is coherent, remember? So this optical cavity is perfectly represented by the page of someone who’s strongly attuned to A, B and F and has a large network (the equivalent of the energy pumped in the cavity).
The practical set-up
As I say in my disclaimer below, I have no knowledge whatsoever of the innards of the M5S system, or any other propaganda setup: I am merely describing how the extension the methodology I outlined in “For Friends, not for Brands!” could IMHO achieve the very same results.
- TUNE the system: this could be done by hand (after all, we analyzed by hand the whole political program of the largest European Party across four countries in less than five weeks with a handful of people, so I know it can be done. However, given the need to repeat this analysis over and over, I would rather fine-tune (or write) a software tool that does the heavy lifting of sorting through millions of conversations, while a small group of elite political analysts provides the final intelligence
- prepare the INJECTORS: in my methodology, I advocated the use of proprietary assets to store the content and push it to social media. In the case of the M5S it is well known that they control a large number of outlets which push out news, both real and fake, incessantly day and night.
- identify the RESONATORS: these are users with the profiles I described above; if Facebook is the platform of choice, they will all have the maximum 5,000 friends and be very active. Moreover, I would map them by topic and cross-check their networks to ensure minimum overlap and maximum geographical coverage. It would not be difficult to reward them by allowing them early access to prime “content” from the Injectors.
- Put in place any commercially available ad server to PAY for all that. Since the traffic flowing through the system is huge, it easily pays for itself, unlike more traditional propaganda machines.
Once the system is ready, all you have to do is flip the switch and watch the clockwork.
People sometimes ask me why I left my old job and well, now you know: the ease with which it can be abused gives me the creeps…
(*) the M5S (Italian acronym for”Five Star Movement”) system was created by the late Roberto Casaleggio, co-founder and inspirer of a political party often described as populist which very successfully broke on the Italian political scene in 2009 around the charismatic figure of comedian Beppe Grillo, and currently commands between 25% and 30% of vote, vying with the Democratic Party for the top spot. They are very far from my own political leanings.
(**) Around the turn of the century I consulted for one of mr. Casaleggio’s companies, but on other subjects, so I do not think I had any role in the development of his approach to political communications on the Internet.