Social Media Vs Social Commitment

If a million people join this group, it will have a million people in it

It’s easy to start a group on Facebook. It’s easy to join. But does your group have meaning? Does it move people to action? Opening a new group is easy, creating a movement is hard. Creating a movement requires commitment.

Most people are afraid of failing. Some think they will lose the respect of their friends and families. Some can’t risk the financial costs. So we need validation from the group for everything. That’s why most Facebook groups use weak language. The creators don’t want to link their reputation too tightly with the failure to achieve the goal.

If X people will join, Y will happen – the creators of these groups leave themselves a nice exit route. If X doesn’t happen, we’re off the hook. We don’t promise to do anything. Oh, and we really don’t have much contorl over Y either, we just kind of hope Y will listen.

Example: If 100,000 people join this group, Nike will stop child labor in China. The language sends a message, and the message is: we’re not serious about child labor. Instead, try Help us stop Nike from using child labor in China. Now we have to be active. Now we are about change. Now we have started a movement.

What’s in a movement?

There’s a video going around the internet about a guy dancing at some music festival. This video is used as a perfect metaphor for a movement in three minutes. It depicts all the stages of a movement, from inception to full blossom.

  1. The Leader – every movement needs a leader. The leader is not afraid to stick out, to be different, to do what he believes even if he has to do it alone.
  2. The True Fans – the first to join the leaders are true fans. They believe in the movement, they just aren’t willing to take the risks. The risk of no-one joining. The risk of failing. They are not alone. They have a leader. This is very important. We’re not all fit to be leaders. If you believe in something, find who else does, and join them. You don’t have to open a new movement to make change.
  3. The Tipping Point – notice what happens after the third guy joins in. This is the tipping point, the critical mass. This is the point where change begins. Suddenly, there’s enough energy in the movement to challenge the status-quo, to be noticed.
  4. Change Complete – as more and more people join in, it becomes riskier not to join. As change builds, which were once the heretics are now the in-crowd, and those still sitting on the sidelines are conservatives, holding on to a fading life-style.

Notes from the trenches

In 2008 a group called Improv Everywhere created an event in New York’s Grand Central Station. The 200 or so participants of the event froze in place for five minutes in the midst of one of the busiest places on earth.

The video was so powerful it attracted many followers. In fact, there were over 70 similar events worldwide. I was lucky enough to help with the organization of the event in Tel Aviv (shameless plug). We weren’t the only group in Israel trying to create such an event. Why were we the only ones to succeed?

  • We made decisions. When you lead a tribe, there’s always a chance people won’t like your decisions. Do you take a risk and alienate some people? Do you put everything to voting? In a lot of groups, everything was up for vote and consensus was a must. Most of them couldn’t even choose a date. In our group, we’ve set the date up front. Even if your tribe is a democracy, the tribe elects a leader that has the power to make decisions in the name of the group.
  • We inspired confidence in the tribe. We had to communicate to the tribe that the event will take place as planned, and it will be a huge success. Once we earned the confidence of the first true fans, the tribe grew organically.
  • We engaged and empowered the tribe. Participants were asked to do whatever they could to improve the event. We asked them to bring friends. We ignited their imagination. We accepted their suggestions. We joined forces with others who wanted to help. We kept going until due date, and we came back to the group and published the results after the event.

The Tribes We Lead

We are bombarded with a contradictory message: You are unique, just like everybody else. We are supposed to express our uniqueness by buying branded shoes. We are supposed to wear our own style, as long as it’s skinny jeans. Brands spend billions shouting at people who don’t listen. They try to be noticed even though we don’t care. A lot of us go for it. It’s easy to be part a movement when someone else tells you what to do.

That’s OK. Most of us aren’t built to lead a tribe. Think about it. If we were all leaders, who would we lead? A tribe has leadership and followers. Followers don’t have to be passive. We can be passionate and active. We can recruit our friends. We can organize events. We will take risks for the cause.

We don’t need millions to create change. If we are a thousands active fans, we can reach a hundred thousand people, easy. Maybe even a million. That’s a lot of power, a lot of awareness, a lot of movement. In order to lead, find followers who are passionate and create a platform for them to spread the word.

Help us realize we can be part of a tribe that believes in something more than skinny jeans and branded shoes. Don’t be afraid. We need you to lead us. It is easy for us to find you, now more than ever. We are looking for you. We are connected. We want to help. We just need you to empower us.