Thursday, September 22, 2011

The crowd vs. My crowd - Get clear on the difference

As a person who is working to find a way to shackle the bucking bronco that is social media, I spend my time immersed with what I call The Crowd.  At NetBase, we spend our time trying to capture and understand the erratic tide of social media by using Natural Language Processing to accurately understand both the emotion (positive or negative feelings) and the passion (intensity of that emotion because all sentiment is not create equal...I like it versus I love it are different).  We spend our time working to harness the message from the ultimate crowd; the 420 petabytes per year (a stat I have quoted which is all the books ever written in any language across times 3600).  To me, for the sake of this blog post, is the The Crowd.  Why?  Because this big data set is controlled by a crowd of billions who are posting trillions of  pieces of information.  If you can understand what it is saying with accuracy you have tapped the collective voice of the world.  Imagine if you could look at a topic of global warming from a macro perspective and first understand the key issues and then slowly dig down into how that message changes from region to region, from country to country and then step back and look for commonalities across global demographics.  It would be tapping The Crowd.

That being said, the purpose of this blog post is to highlight the difference between The Crowd (as one person has defined it here) and My Crowd.  Thinking about the power of crowds, one thing continues to strike me is interesting.  The concept of operational definitions, which is something that I often talk about as a key principle of innovation.  In the case of My Crowd, I am talking about pulling segments of the The Crowd together for a means or purpose.  And as this pertains to social media, I am seeing a lot of subtle differences that will help change the game in this respect.  Much can be made from the application of new technologies, processes and thinking methodologies.  Perhaps one of the most interesting these days (from a social media perspective) can be summed up by parsing things into the The Crowd versus My Crowd.  And if we take it a step further, we can even say think about things that create The Crowd versus utilize The Crowd.  This would also make sense for My Crowd as well.

With a framework like this, one can begin to think about how to apply many of the new social media tools out there.  By first understanding what the feeders and filters are you can then think more concretely about how they fit you business (never mind which ones drive the right cultural alignment with how you or your organization like to do things).

The reason for this theoretical concept to create a framework to talk about some of the tools/services that I encounter and how they fit in.  I have often talk a lot about Spigit and BrighIdea, the innovation platform companies that help internal organizations innovate.  To me these are two organizations that are critical to leverage ones' own human resources.  Where do they fit?  If you think about them, they are focused on developing MY CROWD from an internal perspective.  They have chosen to tackle the very important social media issue of how do I get my own people to collaborate and create effectively?  Why is this a challenge?  Because while you aligned with the desires and goals of management (the enterprise) by leveraging your people in a collaborative way (THE ME's and THE WE's), you are fighting differences in human nature and the cultural battles that ensue inside.  You are building MY CROWD infrastructure that should enable MY CROWD to eventually leverage THE CROWD.  And yes, the ideation platform concept is also about THE CREATION of ideas from MY CROWD.  This idea is powerful, but until it plugs into the EXTERNAL MY CROWD it is more limited.

Another form of MY CROWD that is EXTERNALLY focused is the company Pureprofile.  This organization is well designed because it works to have regular consumer OPT in to create a very robust and global MY CROWD.  While this MY CROWD is externally focused (the greater web) it is MY CROWD because it is limited to the number of folks that opt in.  As it grows, however, one could envision it becoming THE CROWD.  And as a CROWD in general, PureProfile is leveraging people to create a way for organizations to UTILIZE an external MY CROWD.

As I stated earlier, NetBase, Radian 6, Crimson Hexagon and all the other social media analytics filters are really and truly trying to leverage THE CROWD.  Is this the perfect solution?  NO.  It is merely another method of UTILIZING THE CROWD to understand.

The point is this.  Every organization needs some help to figure out how to make sense of social media.  Whether you believe in natural language processing, text analytics, human developed insight when trying to UTILIZE THE CROWD or you think that the microtask workers of Odesk or the people in the Pureprofile database can be YOUR CROWD to give real time help or information, it is important to first think strategically how to use this EVERCROWDED (pun totally intended) resource.

I get beat up for being to conceptual most of the time, but as my profile has taught me that I need a construct to take action. In fact, I have found that creating a conceptual framework is the secret to working smarter, because you hit the right nails at the right time.  While many feel getting lots of boxes checked on a list is what is best measured, I believe the opposite.  I think that concepts are the foundation of truly smart action and the difference between strategic success and tactical failure.

Yes the marketplace is fast, but with limited resources in an mile a minute marketplace, social media as I have said before is the wild west.  Those who understand how everything fits can act with a purpose that drives the culture change that is needed to stay focused, check the RIGHT boxes, and win on the marketplace.

So do you want to utilize THE CROWD OR MY CROWD or are you trying to CREATE THE CROWD OR MY CROWD?  Get will help you take action and UNCROWD your mind.

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