This week we had the pleasure of reading “Here Comes Everybody,” by Clay Shirky. I found the book entertaining while still insightful and educational. I’ve found that these types of books, those that offer real world examples grounded in communications/business theory, are most useful in applying lessons to my everyday work. Hearing about a successful case of mobile organized flash mobs lets me think critically about the aspects of that situation and how it relates or contrasts with my tasks at work. Reading solely about the theories behind mobile based communication wouldn’t have allowed me the same level of insight and understanding.
One silly thing that really stuck out to me is that Shirky called tweeting twittering! I didn’t even know it started out being called that! If you say twittering now people think you are a social media neophyte! Just like any other terminology, social media terms will evolve and adjust, but it seems that this has occurred rather quickly! Had anyone else heard twittering before reading this book?
Something that caught my eye in the section about Howard Dean’s seemingly unsuccessful campaign was, “and in the end the participation came to matter more than the goal (a pretty serious weakness for a vote-getting operation),” which I related it to a conversation I had just the other day with a coworker. I was explaining the differing benefits of pay-per-impression versus pay-per-click Facebook ads and my main point was that if you are encouraging general support, which I relate to “participation” in the Howard Dean example, then impression based ads are fine. This approach may work for Coke or Nabisco, who want users to pledge their support with a like, but not necessarily (or directly, at least) an ask to go buy a pack of Nabisco cookies. For support, I feel the impression exposure of ads can suffice and keep a brand relevant in a Facebook users mind. Yet, if your campaign requires action, click-based Facebook ads are better suited. Because if a person can’t be bothered to click on your ad and learn more about you then how likely are they to vote for you? Granted a like on Facebook does not guarantee a vote, and could be segmented into the participation bucket. But the act of liking is one step closer to the act of voting. This is why I think an action-oriented goal requires an action-oriented path there.
Another part of the book I found interesting was the statement that “social tools don’t create collective action — they merely remove the obstacles to it.” Looking at many of the examples in the book, it’s not that the situations couldn’t have happened without digital tools, but they were made easier/faster/more effective/etc with the advent of online communication. And, as Shirky writes, it isn’t the new fancy tools that make those outcomes possible — it is the simple tools, like email, text messaging and Facebook that can provide the avenues to those outcomes.
One aspect that stood out to me throughout the book was group congregation via text messaging. Over and over again we hear cases of successful protests and organic flash mobs organized via text, but I can’t imagine it working in my own life. I would be receptive to a message about a protest from Facebook or Twitter, but can’t imagine anyone I associate with would send a text to organize something besides drinks on a Tuesday. Does anyone else have experience with this? What was your experience?