The Reality Of The Crowds

When a crisis occurs, or when users are all suffering with a problem, they go online. They need to find out if other people have the same problem, how to fix it, and what caused the problem to begin with. This third point, what caused the problem, helps people to understand: What the issue was, what caused it, and who to blame.

On social media platforms, the speed at which people come up with answers to these questions is rapid. What we can learn from the recent trouble with Amazon (yes I’m late I know), is that there is a unique pattern that forms when users voice their ideas as far as who’s to blame.

Tens of thousands of people quickly send messages and broadcast their ideas as to who’s to blame. At the early stages of a crisis, there is rapid transmission of these ideas by people on social media channels. Mass numbers of people receive these ideas and rebroadcast the one that come from credible sources, or the ones they think might most be likely.

Over time, the most popular of these ideas will start to gather weight, as people begin to believe certain ideas over others. The few large ideas/rumours that eventually develop then become almost indistinguishable from fact.

The crowds have created their own reality.

Once a representative of the company comes out and communicates with the crowd as to the actual nature of the problem, it’s too little too late. And it would be a hard task to ever really convince the entire crowd what really happened.

If Amazon had stepped in sooner, would the web community have trended so highly for #amazonfail? Would there have even been time or interest to develop the ideas as to the different causes of the problem?

I’m sure someone with a PR background would already understand the importance of crisis management and why a quick response could quell people’s imaginations from hurting the company. But it’s interesting how social media channels creates these few large ideas that immensely large groups of users will eventually gather around when left to their own devices. The question about influence on social networks also arise again in this topic when questioning if influence rs can really influence what people believe or how people might gravitate around their thoughts.

Image by theother66 via Flickr






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