Monday, January 19, 2009

Perhaps Numbers do have Some Influence after All

Last week I wrote a post highlighting that our slowly developing obsession with figures was beginning to detract from the value of the overall conversation. My principle concern is that as our attention is increasingly drawn to the aggregation of followers, the purpose of the social media moves away from the qualitative aspects of the conversation towards the quantitative aspects of a broadcast. The conversation discussing such contemporary topics as the position of auto follow software and authority is abundant, and only fuels the debate by encouraging such aggregation. Yet despite my strong views on the subject, I think that it would be naive for me to dismiss the benefits of follower numbers out right.

Talking about Tribes
Over the past few days, I have been reading Seth Godin's fantastic 'Tribes', and whilst I am far from finishing it, the points raised thus far do resonate with the above discussion. Essentially, Godin posits that tribes exist all around us; whether these comprise colleagues in an office, customers connected through a shared passion for a particular product, or sports fans united around a sporting team. Although some tribes are in effect 'stuck' through a lack of direction, other's combine under a leader's influence to become a movement; whilst the actual number of followers is important to a degree, it is the capacity of the leader to incite action that will influence the overall success thereof. It is the presence of transformational leadership that dictates the extent to which the tribe is able to unite under a common goal.

Whilst I remain dubious of those who suggest that numbers alone illustrate authority, it is undeniable that the scope of incited action will rise as these figures increase; in other words, action incited within a group of 50,000 will almost certainly exceed the action incited within a group of 50. Whilst this statement is a considerable generalization which will depend largely upon the composition of the group, it is arguable that the size of the group will directly influence the significance of the outcome produced. Needless to say, this action will invariably prove inconsequential if the presence of a transformational leader is found to be lacking.

Leading the Pack
Although figures have the capacity to influence the eventual outcome, alone they count for very little. It is arguable that the presence of a strong leader will determine the success of a particular objective; if she is able to both energise and motivate the tribe. The leader’s capacity to direct will almost certainly dictate the group’s propensity towards successful goal recognition, and I would suggest to you that smaller groups can achieve aims equal to and even greater than those accomplished by tribes twice their size; given the appropriate motivation.

Whilst I would never discourage the building of a community, I would offer a brief warning. The capacity of your community to create a given outcome will depend largely upon your ability to direct them. Be inspirational, energise the group, and turn your tribe into a movement.

Show the Rogue some Stumble love

1 comment:

  1. One of the biggest ironies in this space is that as our outreach grows, our actual interaction seems to lessen. Some manage it better than others yet they're in the minority (or so it seems).

    Susan Murphy wrote a great post about community building that echoes your points:

    As you say, forcing a community is possible, but the real strength comes in building a community.