Interaction Analysis

by Ben Perreira

One of the first classes I took as an undergrad studying sociology was called “Interaction Analysis.” It was taught by a Professor Zimmerman who had been doing research on the subject since the sixties. 

The crux of the learning was that the way we say things makes a big difference in the response we get. He discussed 911 calls, courtroom dialogue and pedagogy. It turned out there is a significant difference in response when a teacher asks “Are there questions?” versus “Are there any questions?” That little “any,” he said, made people less likely to respond with questions.

This type of work can get a little esoteric when not applied. When applied it become ultra relevant. In this type of analysis we can find the difference between successful and less successful social media campaigns, for instance. If people are primed for a certain type of interaction (e.g. a shareable meme or line on Twitter) and we give them something different (e.g. the same message in YouTube video form on Twitter), the interaction rate goes down.

Content and users engage in a dialectic about how the content must be relayed to those users. Beyond simple usability and friction though ultimately related, there is a flow to how we scroll through mobile social experiences that differs greatly from how we receive messages in other mediums; we dedicate fractions of seconds to reading tweets whereas we dedicate :30 to each TV spot. When we understand the style in which users expect to be communicated, the brand’s message moves to the front of the stage. 

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