The Social Media Analytics Summit has offered a stream of case studies and presentations that attempt to explain the best practices in determining your ROI on social media, along with the deep chasm of issues therein.  

We were treated to a presentation by Stephen E. Arnold, a 67-year-old outside-the-box thinker who's won the audience over more than any other speaker at this 2-day event so far.  Maybe because he was handing out money.

There are Holes in the Bucket

Arnold's approach comes with a sort of old-fashioned innovation.  He illuminates the gaps in the current system of analytics, and proceeds to exploit them.  The benefits of this approach are immense; it allows you to manipulate the stream of information on the internet like one manipulates a puppy who wants a treat. That may be one reason Arnold's been scooped up for classified projects and has developed a crafty approach to dodging questions while providing a pretty clear response.

Sparing myself (and you) some of the headiest jargon, I'll attempt to describe the unique philosophy. 

First off, the whole idea is based on understanding the gaps in the system. It is subject to its own weaknesses just like all of us. While observing the flow of information through any channel, you need to understand that it is inherently seeking out and following spikes of data, getting caught in deep, echoing wells, and incorporating some kind of predictive algorithm that behaves in a specific and identifiable way.

Once you understand this, you can engineer content that strikes through the heart of it like a wormhole. Arnold's presentation began with a fun example where he published a post on WordPress and showed it as a #1 result on Google's main index less than 2 minutes later (that's where the money came in -- $20 to the first person to find it on Google). Showing that this method of cutting through the noise is possible was an impressive slap-in-the-face to some of the hyper-complex data gatherers who have been the bulk and buzz here so far.

Can I Do That?

In a way. On a broader and more philosophical sense, there is something intuitive about manipulating the semantic language of the web. I certainly believe that most of us active web users have a native understanding of how to navigate and why it works, like a pirate knows how to navigate the seas. But in a deeper sense, we keep coming back to the argument that content is king.

Once a blogger has inserted an entity into the modern index (i.e., published his post), he can support that by attaching concepts to it across mediums. Those concepts are more widely relevant, and when attached to the content, will create a magnetism that attracts other content in support of it, sort of like virality.  Through reinforcement and augmentation, the entity can grow somewhat organically. Done with expertise, this approach can (supposedly) influence the lifespan of an entity, even to the point of making it semi-permanent.


Yeah, it's sort of an intellectual concept more than an actionable plan, at least as far as I've covered it here. The fascinating part is that it implies that it is possible to manipulate and exploit the established system without being a genius or billionaire. It exists in congruence with the concept of one writer, standing alone, having influence on a large scale. To me, that's romantic.