March 19, 2017

Crowd effects: How crowd behavior influences your social network

Writing about web page

Crowd at a religious gathering in India
The online dictionary defines a “Crowd” as a large number of people gathered together, in an unruly or disorganized way. People behave wonderfully well, when they are more organized and sane as an individual. But the same individual, when he or she becomes part of the crowd, displays a new behavior and is swayed by the opinion of the crowd. These are crowd effects.
Such crowd effects are seen in massive social mobilizations and social movements across the world.
There are many theorists and researchers who have given us enough in depth background on the sociological perspective of massive social mobilizations. Our point of discussion here in this article, relates to crowd behavior and crowd effects in social networks. After all, there are crowds in a social network as well.

A global statistics survey, from Statista and Global web index, points out that there are about 2.3 Billion active social media users in the world as of Jan, 2016. And that’s a massive crowd.

The question is: are they truly disorganized and unruly? Our popular culture and perception about ‘crowds’ may sometimes refer to them as people who belong to the masses. From a sociological perspective, there is huge section of research and exploration devoted to the science and the collective behavior of the crowds.

What constitutes a crowd, for crowd effects to take shape?

In this perspective, we will explore the article titled “Social collective behavior: How following the crowd benefits us”. As people, we are sometimes emotional and are swayed by popular opinion of the crowd. As the article points out, there are direct benefits and private information which we stand to gain, if we follow the crowd. Such private information and benefits follow a path of information cascades and spreads quickly as a contagion. We will explore this in a little while from now.
As mentioned earlier, it is essential to understand the dynamics of collective behavior of the crowds. There is an ongoing contention among researchers, that any group behavior is a collective behavior of the crowds and as such, there need not be a separate study for such crowd behavior. This leads us to ask what a crowd is then. Crowd is just any group of people. I would like to defer from the above definition from the online dictionary.

There are crowds gathered for religious movements, celebrations and office people gathering outside their buildings. The people who form these crowds bring in their own personal characteristics to the group. They follow a certain pattern. They all behave according to certain established cultural guidelines and structure. For example, crowds for celebrations, social movements and contests have established procedures and shades of cultural underpinnings and as such, understanding the crowd effects and collective behavior of such gatherings and group may not add value.

For us to understand collective Crowd behavior, within the context of crowd effects, the crowds should not have well defined cultural guidelines or organized with established procedures. Crowds should form at random, as in an event or an incident. For example, crowds that form at random on the roads, to watch a building construction or even a crowd that forms, when there has been a road accident.

Crowds have a mind of their own

Many theorists have pointed that crowds, have a mind of their own. A popular theory among others is the “Group mind theory”. Individuals exist apart but act as one in the group. Their thinking processes are stimulated by each other’s feelings and intentions. In other words, individuals are motivated by each other.

The explanation is that the minds of people, are acting towards a common cause and the individuals are cooperating towards the common cause. We have seen such behavior within the animal world. Animals which move together in a swarm exhibit such behavior. Nevertheless, understanding crowd effects and collective behavior is a complex phenomenon.

Crowd effects are unpredictable and happen in the NOW.

At this juncture, I would like to say that crowd effects are unpredictable. History is replete with incidents and events where the collective behavior of the crowds have been always unpredictable. For example, the crowd behavior during the FA cup, semifinal match in England in 1988, is still intriguing. What prompted the frenzied fans to behave in a manner, which resulted in a human crush is still not known. There are numerous reports from the police. Still another vivid example, is the stampede that had occurred during the annual Hajj at Mecca.

Experts and research practitioners are baffled and prediction can only happen after studying crowds in similar scenarios.

But then, how the crowd will behave at random during any event or gathering is still a mystery and unpredictable. Perhaps, the group-mind theory above can offer some help to understand it.

Collective crowd behavior in social media: The concept of information cascades

People in a crowd are sometimes emotional and are swayed to act and speak in a manner which is conducive to the common objectives of the crowd. There is no rationale towards such acts.

People gravitate towards a crowd, when there is beneficial private information or direct benefits involved.

When there is a direct benefit by being in a crowd and as result you stand to gain, a not so easily available private information, there is no rationale adopted. People just spread the network and join the crowd. This phenomenon is known by the term “Information cascades”.

People would want to align to a crowd and follow the crowd with no rationale or limited rationale. Sometimes, even where there is no direct benefit involved. This is information cascades at its peak.

We have seen many popular social media tools, which have raised to fame within a short period of time. For example, You Tube, had many good features which appealed to the masses for video sharing. There was information cascade and people just thronged to the site making it extremely popular. So is the case with Facebook and Twitter as well.
Another term used within this context is the ‘Network effect’, where people follow other actions and spread it, when there is something good and worthwhile happening.

For this reason, it would seem that the popular social media tools are powerful and cannot be displaced. But then, the same crowd behavior can be replicated by new comers as well, if we follow the popular opinion and make adjustments accordingly.

Finally, what I would like to say

It was interesting to note in this scenario, on how the incentive structures in social media tools can be put to good use to sway the crowds and inculcate the desired collective behavior among them. In essence, a desired crowd effect. Yes, it is unpredictable, but there is a chance of steering it in the right direction within the context of a social network, at least. The right incentive structures can motivate crowds in the right direction to bring in long term sustainable change. Incentive structures as pointed above can include both private information and direct benefits.

It goes without saying that the wealth is in the networks. Collective crowd behavior can stimulate and facilitate people to move in the right direction. Lastly, what I would like to say is that, it is no more a theory. We are seeing it practically, the crowd effects happening through the popular social media tools. It is in our best interest to follow the crowd.

Hope you liked this article. I do need your suggestions.

March 14, 2017

Social media model in the future – Learning from MIT Sloan management review

Writing about web page


We all must have used one form of social media or the other. This blog, which I am using to communicate my thoughts is one. Social media is an attitude. It is continously evolving and self-organising. The current model of "clicks, shares, retweets and likes" of social media and the social networks reflects the current world culture.

A culture where people are experimenting with new found freedom of soically expressing themselves and sharing across boundaries.

Social media through its embedded networks have made a mark in the world and are here to stay. It will slowly evolve into a much more mature model, where people will drive real societal and business change through social mobilization and standing for a common cause.

The article from the Sloan management review titled "Beyond Viral: Generating value from social media" emphasizes this aspect. You can view the article Click here.

I am not going to talk about the oft-repeated benefits and value of social media here. Having said that, sharing of expertise and knowledge, community building, sense of belonging and freedom of expression are seen as the biggest benefits of using social media.

Within an organisation perspective, the benefits include: successive iteration of ideas leading to innovation, sharing of information and creating the valuable context around that information.

Though there has been a spread and usage of social media across the world, the usage is more towards temporary mobilization of crowds and thought processes on issues. The authors point out that social media models in the future should engage people and garner action for long term sustainable societal and business change.

Introducing suitable motivational incentive structures built within the social media networks will be good solution to engage audience in the long term, say the authors.

True to the article, so far, we have seen only "Likes" and "Retweets" as the popular social media action and reciprocity coming from people using social media tools. This results only in temporary support, thought and social mobilization. These actions from a business perspective are more apt for new product introduction, quick dessimination of information and innovation diffusion.

The question is how the benefits of social media be used for long term business change ? the answer lies in designing the social networks of the future.

At this juncture, I would like to point out an article written on this subject. Please click here to read it.

A social network is always embedded within a social media. Social media is the technological layer on the surface. The underlying social network needs to be fine tuned for the three important components of structure, ties and connections between the partcipants and behaviour of the members within the network.

This is quite a challenge and understanding social networks is interdisciplinary.Creating real incentive based motivation and trust among members involves discipines like: Socialogy, Computer science, Psychology and Ethnography to name a few.

Once we are able to achieve this new social network of the future, then real sustainable change through social media and long term social mobilization is possible.

We need to go beyond the current "Likes". By the way, as I mentioned earlier, it is the current trend among people and it has become world social media culture. It is continously evolving.

We need to wait for the culture to change or even a better alternative would be introduce the new social network in trickles and see how people adopt to it over time and make changes.

March 11, 2017

The art of social listening: Going beyond data towards meaning and context

Social listening at a conference

There are conversations happening all around us. Obviously, the most easily accessible conversations are the ones that are on your smart phone. I mean, I am talking about the one that is happening on your popular social media app.

Having said that, listening to conversations are an important life skill. They help us to understand the world, understand others and build relationships. Listening is also an important attention building skill.

This time around, our attention is drawn towards a new type of listening which has surfaced in the recent years. This is “Listening to social media”. Within the industry circles, this is known as ‘social listening’ by some social media experts.

Social listening is all about gaining insight about yourself, your brand, your company and your products and services by listening to online conversations that happen on social media channels.

It is about making meaning and making the right response of your online social media conversations.

But then, for the common man the word ‘social listening’ will always mean: listening to others (the medium could be anything!) and being good and kind to others.

Exploring further on the business side, companies have begun to realize the importance of listening to social conversations online for understanding the customers. After all, “Understanding the customers thought and intention” has always been the holy grail of business.

This importance was captured well in an article from Harvard Business review titled ““How to get more out of social media-think like an anthropologist”. Click here for the article.

The article talks about how data managers and data scientists should jettison the traditional methods of analyzing data and look at finding meaning and understanding the context of online social conversations. Understanding the background and culture of the people involved in the conversations, also makes right sense.

It is only through understanding the context of the conversation that we begin to gain insight. A more qualitative analysis is required rather than a quantitative one. Context in an online conversation answers some most important questions such as “Who said it?”, “What is being said”, “What are the challenges?” etc. Sometimes online social conversations are amplified by the culture of the people involved.

Understanding the context in an online conversation, gives companies an opportunity to make the right response to its approach and strategy.

March 06, 2017

We thrive on social interaction –There is no lone genius

social media usage

A recent survey from the global web index showed that there are there are 2.3 billion active social media users in the world. We human beings are social animals. We love to form groups and socially interact.The use of social media has tripled over the last few years.

Our social brain is responsible for our evolution to whom we are today.

It is based on the simple knowing that a single person need not possess and have all the expertise and knowledge in the world. We can seek knowledge and expertise from others as well in areas where we are lacking.

Many scientists and researchers have agreed that there is no lone genius. It is through successive iteration of ideas and collaboration with others that insight happens. We need to collaborate and socially interact with others to make our hunches right and take it a conclusive understanding.

Apart from a few usages of social media within organisations for collaboration and chat messages, now called enterprise social networking or social collaboration, social media on the consumer side, is still in the realm of sharing jokes, photos and videos for entertainment purposes.

A recent HR survey from Bamboo shows that about 68% of employees in the United states, do not mind taking a break during the day for surfing social media sites. And about 40% of them spend about 10-30 minutes on the same.

Having said that, social media is an attitude. The underlying behaviour of the participants very much depends on the current prevailing culture of the place and the whole world in general.

Social media is self-organising and continously evolving. There are pockets within niche industry cirlces like advertising and the recruitment industry where professionals use social media for more productive purposes.

We thrive on social interaction. There is no doubt about it. Social media has provided a conduit. My concern is that this conduit needs to be used in a much more productive manner for professional collaboration as well not just for sharing jokes and photos alone.

There are sites like Linkedin groups which do a good job. But then, there is no much linkage and penetration among various social groups for its usage.

My Gravatar

My Gravatar

Welcome ! about the blog

Coffee Mug!

Coffee mug conversations and listening – about social media, networks, collaboration and crowds.

Human beings are social animals. We have evolved to this date and time, because of our social nature. We love groups and we love to share.

I write about re-inventing ourselves and our work through Social media, Social networks, Work Collaboration, Innovation and lastly Work life balance.

I completed my Masters in IT for manufacture, WMG, University of Warwick. I graduated in the year 2004.

Search this blog


RSS2.0 Atom
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder