For a few weeks now I have obsessed over the applications of Swarm, herd and Mob behavior and how they might apply to social media, and I believe there is something there worth striving to understand. I believe that how people behave online might follow these theories.
Swarm behaviour or Swarm Intelligence discusses how working together the group is smarter and stronger than the individual. This is demonstrated by insect swarms, where the individual insect is not intelligent, but collectively they can carry out some pretty amazing/destructive things. I believe that swarming can be one of the causes of topics trending on twitter.
In April of this year we saw a swarm with the creation of #4SQDAY. Consider only 3 weeks before 4/16/2010 no one ever thought of a “Foursquare Day” see the story here. With 4SQDAY we saw an idea’s inception that was shared with a core group via twitter, that group then then focused their attention on getting this idea “out there” and the collective bit on it. We then saw this idea grow in 3 weeks to 250 cities throwing parties in at least 35 countries. Don’t find this impressive, try planning just 10 parties in ten cities in 3 weeks.
Herd behavior discusses how individuals act in a similar pattern to those around them, much like a flock of birds. This Herd behavior can be seen in the stock market where individuals look to see how others are acting, and without thinking about it, mimic their behavior. On Twitter, herd behavior would be one probable cause of people re-tweeting trending topics, causing them to continue to trend. “It’s what everyone is doing”.
Mob behavior however discusses people being motivated to act in a fashion outside of their character, because they are swept up in the moment with others demonstrating that behavior, this is accountable for why people buy impulse items when they see others buying those items, even if they never intended to buy those items. On Twitter, mob behavior may be an explanation for people who jump on board attacking a company or brand online. Today while researching a company that I am meeting with next week I noticed that they were promoting a “big announcement”; after the announcement I noticed a quick mob joined in after the first negative remark, people jumped in on the company, and my guess is that some of those people only jumped in, because they saw others doing it.
The question now, which I hope to investigate and find out, is can behaviors such as these be artificially created, can they be focused, once focused, can they be dispersed or redirected in a new direction. I am looking for any and all ideas on this, so please chime in. If you have any examples of any of these behaviors, add them as a comment. I hope to have a follow-up to this article, including what I learn.
I had a great experience this past week in my other Business, Real Estate, which is funding the growth and development of the Head of Lettuce for now.
As many of you know I was involved in the planning and development of Foursquare Day (#4sqday), a social media holiday that was born here in Tampa, well on Foursquare day I was meeting a young would be home owner at a property in a neighborhood which just happened to be entered in Foursquare as a location and their Club house was in there also, so in my true geek spirit, I checked in on Foursquare, which in turn sent that notice to Facebook and Twitter and ultimately set wheels in motion. 4 Hours later I received a comment on my post from a local builder sales rep who happened to friend me asking me to consider their products for the buyer. Well I did take the buyer over to look at the specific house that the Rep. told me about, well to make a long story short, they ended up buying the house.
So what’s the moral of this tale, well you truly never know who if following you and how you may benefit from that fact. Even something that is viewed by many as silly, like Foursquare has many business applications that we have yet to discover. So if you are one of those who believes that social media is not a big deal, I can only say that you will be like the Real Estate agents I talked to when I was with Realtor.com in the late 90′s, either a late adopter working to catch the bus you missed, or soon out of business.
okay, okay, I know many are sick of hearing about Foursquare day, but there is something so much bigger that you need to consider. Just a few weeks ago an idea was thrown out there by an Optometrist, Dr. Nate, on Twitter and his Blog, and with in 3-4 weeks it has spiraled into a global movement on Twitter, Facebook & mainstream news, Take a look at this Google News Timeline . Unfortunately getting numbers from Foursquare is like pulling teeth, so quantifying what this has done for their user count, since the idea started, is an unknown at this time. Hopefully we will soon know where they were March 22 (when I believe the idea hatched) to April 22nd just 1 month later. There are not many chances to measure and track such an obscure idea and it offers a great opportunity to study the spread and flow of information in the social media platforms to those like me that want to know!
This idea started in Tampa, and has spread to over 100 cities including cities in China, Australia, and throughout Europe. Bing Maps has added a great App Foursquare Everywhere that shows check-ins as they happen in your area. Website SocialGreat has a tool for some cities that give a glimpse of activity over longer periods of time, and 4squareoffers designed by @Ramanean shows regular Foursquare offers by businesses outside of Foursquare day. As I have discussed on my Fan Page, I have been playing with Yahoo Pipes to keep track of Offers being offered in my area. Now we just need Foursquare to step up and help us understand this amazing phenomenon which is not just about them, but about social media in general.
I had a great conversation this morning with a VP of Marketing at a national chain and the discussion turned to something that all businesses involved with #4sqday need to be aware of and address, the educating of staff on how to “check” a customer’s check-in on Foursquare.
Players, if your new, it is always a challenge to remember to check in on Foursquare, well at least you have an idea that you’ve checked in, keep your check-in screen open to show the business that you checked in when you get there, Keep in mind that many of the participating businesses are still trying to figure out how to prepare their staff for the day, go easy on them and reward them with some kind words when you check-in.
Everyone should be prepared, what if Foursquare goes down, I went out for lunch today and had trouble checking in, I imagine Friday will be a day that will truly test Foursquare, Businesses and players alike need to be patient with each other. Businesses, if the site is down, the player can still show you that they tried to check in, I would then still honor the special, you can always ask them to tweet their check-in. Players, if you check in Friday, let it Tweet, these businesses deserve a little shout out for all that they are doing to make this day awesome.
Have some fun with the day, if you have a tv/monitor that you can plug your computer into, consider opening your venue’s page on foursquare so you can identify players as they check in. If your traffic is low, don’t get discouraged; use this opportunity to get some of your regulars onboard, tell them about Foursquare and any future specials you dream up (Carrabba’s awards their mayors with free dessert). I believe there will be residual effect from this day as you are standing up and saying to the Foursquare community We recognize you, and they will recognize you back, jump at this opportunity and maintain that relationship. Consider setting that computer monitor to http://bit.ly/bing4sqmap (default is Tampa, you can reset for your area) This will show live Foursquare check-ins as they happen in the area, go ahead and try this, it really gives you an idea of Foursquare traffic in your area (be patient it appears to update live, so no one checking in means you wait till they do).
Users, if you check in and see others are checked in, don’t gawk, wave and say Hi or Foursquare?, we don’t want to be creeping each other out which can be easy when you appear to be looking on your phone and you keep looking at someone, instead be social, you might see each other again later at the Swarm party, familiar faces will make it that much more fun.
Remember you have resources to tap into, you can ask @4sqday for advice via twitter or contact Antony Francis at Head of Lettuce media for free assistance with 4SQDay preparation. Lastly don’t make social media a one time attempt, make this the beginning of your entry into the new medium, and take advantage of all it has to offer in building your business.
So you’ve decided to get your business involved in 4SqDay and or Foursquare, now it’s time to tell everyone. You don’t open a new business without a grand opening, nor should you enter the exciting new media world without saying Hey Social Media fans, you rock and we know it, in fact we are going to reward you, because you rock. Get the message out! Post it on your website, your Facebook Fan page, tell your customers on your recipts, add it to your menus, place a sign on the wall “Did you check in on Foursquare while you were here? We reward Foursquare players, (Put your offer here)”
Use Foursquare day for your coming out party, keep your expectations low ( we really have no idea what you should expect), but keep your energy and excitement high as this is not just about the day, this is your entry in a new medium for advertising that will yield greater results for $ spent then any other. Leading up to 4SqDay, and all day long, ask your customers “Did you check in on Foursquare? Do you know what that is? We offer discounts to people on Foursquare and it costs you nothing to access those discounts”.
Your goal should be to get as many of your customers on this fun medium as possible, because it gives you an easy way to engage with those customers and reward your best customers. Think of it as a partnership between you and this new medium.
Lastly find out if there is a “Swarm” party going on that day (4/16), if so ask how you can contribute giveaways for those participating, it can be one big gift for a special Winner, maybe anyone who checked in at your location for the day, or maybe a 15% off discount card for all in attendance (or the first 10 that check in), you decide. Make it a true value and you will be rewarded with business and “chatter” on the internet talking about how cool you are resulting in a better image and ultimately more traffic.
Head of Lettuce media helps businesses develop social/new media strategies to capture attention organically contact us to see how we can help you. Advice on #4sqday activities is free.