Arif A. Mahmood is an international technology attorney who speaks on social media issues to the American Bar Association and provides legal insight to media outlets such as FoxNews.com. Arif used his scientific background to become one of the first social media speakers to incorporate developments in the field of cognetics and teach how cognitive psychology research is critical to modern social media campaigns. Arif has also litigated complex intellectual property cases dealing with patents and trademarks and is licensed to practice law in Illinois, Washington D.C. and Ontario.
MO: What inspired you to launch Precedent New Media?
Arif: As a technology lawyer I am constantly challenged with communicating large amounts of complex information to clients and judges. However, when faced with competing attorneys working against me the difference between the information presented by the two sides can often be lost on the audience. Legal professionals have always used advocacy tactics to gain an upper hand in terms of what language they use and how they present their case. Having studied both science and law I am fascinated by how we identify what details are valuable when presented with complex information, whether jurors in a technology trial or teenagers receiving ads on their phones. While practicing technology law I recognized how social media content suffers from the same burdens as legal advocacy – a crowded, fast-moving broadcast where the audience is unlikely to notice small differences that are important to the speaker. This is where the field of cognative psychology comes into play, the study of how the brain thinks, and more specifically cognetics, how processing by the brain is influenced by the presentation and organization of information.
MO: How does Precedent New Media use social media cognetics?
Arif: When speaking on social media topics I blend insight from my legal and scientific training with basic psychology principles from cognetics. It helps put everything in perspective and reminds marketing professionals and small business owners that the content does not convey what you write down on the page, it will be consumed by people thinking about many other things.
MO: What are some social media trends that you’re excited about or think that our readers should be paying attention to?
Arif: The shift towards incredibly short marketing messages is nearly complete due to the popularity of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. As people become more accustomed to receiving a stream of social media content the reality will be that your content will be incredibly limited, both in terms of length and exposure. This means that some of the basic laws of perception and psychology become more important when you no longer have a large canvas to work with. This is one of the reasons major corporations started introducing jingles into television advertisements, a short catchy tune (for example, McDonalds’ ‘I’m loving it’ or the T-Mobile Ringtone) may be more memorable than a million dollar 30-second commercial with actors, car crashes and special effects.
MO: Can you provide an example of how latest psychology research is critical to new social media campaigns?
Arif: When people are exposed to new marketing information, like a claim about the value of a product, they process it with reference to future actions. They are considering ‘Is this something that is worth clicking on or remembering?’ I believe content should be designed to not only appeal to immediate interest but also hint at some future informational value. For example, if you are promoting online travel deals through Twitter you should also communicate that deserving parents could also use a vacation as an anniversary present. More people are likely to consider your pitch worth remembering if they are told that it can also serve as a future gift for deserving family members. That connects to something that is valuable in their life.
MO: What are the most common issues you see when it comes to international technology law and how can they be avoided?
Arif: Corporations are going to face the new updated consumer protection laws for the digital age, as the FCC just did when it updated its online marketing disclosure guidelines. How to disclosure material details of a commercial offer in a social media campaign will be a tricky problem since bold claims in highly condensed text could be considered misleading without disclaimers. But those disclaimers will not be seen in a Twitter stream or in a mobile ad, you would have to click on the text to see the legal warnings and even then on a mobile screen it may not be obvious right away. But businesses have an obligation to provide clear disclosures so social media platforms may have to redesign their operations to help convey all the necessary details of advertisements.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Arif: The developments in international technology law and the explosion of digital content raises a whole series of new questions about what, and who, the law should focus on protecting and what is ‘fair’ when it comes to intangible assets such as reputation and privacy. Also, never in history has the majority of digital content been accessible in many countries as the same time, which causes a lot of problems when you think how to ensure consistency with your business. I think this is an exciting time for both law and technology.
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