Tag - crowds

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3 Steps to Go-Go Juice
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Crowds Vs. Mobs

3 Steps to Go-Go Juice

It is just about a week from the launch of my new book, Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media! Here is an excerpt published last week in the Nonprofit Times about the variety of different ways organizations (and people) have available to them to raise capital for their efforts. They called it 3 Steps to Creating New Capital. I used Go-Go Juice for this post because anytime I can write or say go-go juice, I think I should. Same thing for whackadoodles and wingnuts!

Three Steps to Go-Go Juice

Gathering crowds to help your cause is an essential part of working in a networked world. Crowds create capital, or “go-go juice,” that can include human connections, intelligence and expertise, resources like equipment and furniture, and, of course, money. Ideas and ventures that would have been impossible when capital was scarce are now possible because of social media platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Creating capital is an essential part of what I call “Matterness,” wherein the interests and talents of people meet the needs of organizations.

Crowds can be difficult for organizations to work with because people come and go as they please, not necessarily according to the wishes of organizations. Here are the three essential steps for turning crowds into organizational go-go juice:

Understanding the Need. The first question to be answered is: Exactly what kind of “go-go juice” do we need? As mentioned above, crowds can contribute lots of different skills and resources, however, too often organizations think of them only as potential check writers. Simply asking what kind of creative go-go juice we need helps to change the internal thinking of organizations used to doing everything by themselves internally. Thinking creatively about working with crowds is a way for organizations to move from working at people to working with them.

Creating “No Fake” Zones. Crowd members want real, meaningful opportunities to help an organization. Fake requests like: Send me money today, or my opponent will win and send your children to Russia for kindergarten! do more harm than good. Fakery also include messages that look like they are from real people but are from black-hole email addresses like “no reply.” Social media are conversational vehicles. People are smart, they can see through artificial requests for help that are really just excuses to ask for donations and opportunities to capture contact information. Building trust with a crowd is essential to keeping people engaged longer.

Following As Well As Leading. There are times when what an organization wants to get is different from what constituents want to give. When this happens it is smarter for an organization to become a follower rather than a leader. Organizations need to be on the lookout for crowds that form that can enhance their efforts — but beware, these crowds cannot be “owned” by organizations. Leaders need to focus on Matterness in these instances and find the sweet spot that exists between what crowds what to give and what an organization needs. It’s there, it just may take some conversations between the crowd and the organization for it to emerge.

Successfully leading crowds takes clarity of purpose, intentionality, and some elbow grease. People need to be treated with dignity and respect, which means ensuring that their time and intelligence are respected and used well. Organizers need to think clearly about specific benefits to the crowd participants that are mutually beneficial, not to the exclusive benefit of either organizations or their crowds.

 

 

 

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Crowds Vs. Mobs

Those of us happily swimming in the social media waters often extol the virtues of crowds of people who can act collectively to generate new knowledge or new products. Beth just wrote a great post for Huffington Post providing a summary from our book on the various ways that crowds can work together to support causes. Crowds can create knowledge together (e.g. Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count), they can create a product or work of art together (e.g. Royal Opera Company’s Twitter Opera). And, of course, crowds of people can vote for their favorite Idol or candidate or grantee or sports all star online.

But there is a dark side to crowds and that is when they turn into mobs. There have been two instances in particular of mob behavior online that have caught my eye. The first was the explosion of vitriol aimed at Cooks Source Magazine and its editor, Judith Griggs. A free lance writer, Monica Gaudio, posted a story on her blog on November 3rd, 2010 about this magazine using an article of her without permission. As if the lifting of her story wasn’t bad enough, the response she received from the editor was appalling. The most egregious passage from her response was this widely circulated paragraph:

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

The outrage in the blogosphere and on the magazine’s Facebook page was fast, ferocious and unforgiving.

Of course, the magazine realized the PR disaster it had on its hands and within a matter of days issued an apology and a donation to Columbia School of Journalism as Monica had originally suggested.

Two weeks later the magazine, with just two staff people Griggs and her daughter, had shut down.

Last week the Internet was abuzz with rumors that the social bookmarking site, Delicious, was shutting down. An employee of Yahoo! the parent company of Delicious tweeted out this slide from a presentation:

What to do to save years worth of tags and bookmarks many of us had been saving on Delicious? A flurry of tweets flew around with suggestions of sites to transfer information from Delicious. Beth suggested Diigo and yesterday I set up an account there and transferred all of my data form Delicious to Diigo. It’s impossible to know exactly how many other people have done similarly in the last week, however, there was a message on the Diigo site saying that it was slow because thousands of new accounts had been created to do exactly what I was doing.

Today Kerri Karvetski posted on my Facebook wall a link to this article saying that that the death of Delicious may have been prematurely reported. The article quotes a part of a blog post from Yahoo saying:

“We’re actively thinking about the future of Delicious and we believe there is a home outside the company that would make more sense for the service and our users,” the blog post says. “We’re in the process of exploring a variety of options and talking to companies right now. And we’ll share our plans with you as soon as we can.”

Thousands of users have already shifted over in the time it took Yahoo to respond to the rumors. What may have been a slideshow intended to spur internal brainstorming may have turned into a death knell for Delicious.

I’ve been thinking about how these two examples are alike and different.

They are alike in that these mobs formed instantly and widely online and they both killed an institution (I’m guessing the damage to Delicious may be irreversible, could be wrong about that, of course.)

Of course, there are significant differences between them. In the case of The Cooks Source the crowd was incensed, rightly, by the insensitive and ignorant comments from the editor. However, the Delicious example is unclear whether it was an employee trying to save or bury Delicious by making public an internal presentation. I know, there is no internal or external in our Wikileaks world, however, it seems that the intention of the presenter here was to share an early idea not make a public announcement. In addition, the Cooks Source crowd was out for blood, the Delicious crowd just wanted to protect itself even though the consequences of inaccurate information leaking out early may be that we all inadvertently put them out of business.

All in all, these examples leave me with more questions:

1. When and how does a crowd turn into a mob – and is there any way back once it becomes a mob?

2. How can a company or organization, particularly a small one like Cooks Source, react fast and widely enough to calm a mob? One answer is that they will need friends in their network to advocate on their behalf, but again, this requires an incredibly fast and loud response to calm a mob.

3. We are assuming no evil and premeditated intent on the part of the mob catalyst in both of these cases. But what if someone had an ax to grind with the magazine or with Yahoo! We’re living in an environment where widespread panic is just a mouse click away for any organization or company. Even though the process is opaque, even Wikileaks portends to do some due diligence on the information it receives to verify it’s authenticity.

I don’t have any answers to these questions, just thinking about them…

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