Are you are starter or a joiner?

As someone obsessed with social media I got to thinking about crowd dynamics at the Cubs game a few days ago.  Next time you are at a big sporting event, watch how crowd action is first started and then how it spreads.  This might seem strange but I think those of us who think long and hard about how to create vibrant online communities have something to learn from how the wave gets started .

In order for the wave to start, someone has to start it.  Do they do it on their own?  Do they first talk to a few friends privately?  How many friends do they need to catch everyone elses attention?  How many people need to follow their lead for then the entire stadium to join in the fun?  And what can we learn about adoption rates by watching how quickly the wave moves from a few people to 30,000+?  What can we learn about the fact that almost everyone participates when it really gets going, including the people who would never have started it on their own.

Does your community have those “wave starters”  who can recruit a few more people to join in who then in turn get the wave going?  Do you have the mechanisms in place to make sure that the “crowd” can see and then model what your leaders are doing?  What is the reward or motivation of those starters?

I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but certainly gets the mind going to think about how this everyday example of user participation can inform your online community efforts.



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