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Crowdsourcing the "Social Media Revolution" - Your Weapon Against Negative WOM

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

michaelwu.jpgDr. Michael Wu, Ph.D. is Lithium's Principal Scientist of Analytics, digging into the complex dynamics of social interaction and online communities.


He's a regular blogger on the Lithosphere and previously wrote in the Analytic Science blog.


You can follow him on Twitter at mich8elwu.



2004 to 2005 saw the rise of the social era, mainly through the availability of new large scale web applications that facilitate content creation, sharing, syndication and social interaction. These web 2.0 technologies began to mature over the next few years leading up to the inevitable social media revolution.


Drowned Out by Negativity?

social_media_resize.jpgMany brands and large enterprises fear this social media revolution: a change of interaction and communication style where enterprises no longer have control over what the mass public can or will say about their brands. Moreover, the sheer volume of voices in the mass can easily overwhelm their corporate message.


If we look at one social channel, say the blogosphere; the total number of bloggers alone writing about a brand can number in the thousands. Employees at the company will be totally outnumbered. Moreover, these passionate bloggers often work diligently around the clock, 24/7. On top of that, there are also Twitters, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, and many other channels all over the world.


Negativity seems to be a major concern for these large corporate entities, and companies can't possibly hire enough people to deal with the mass public. So how can they deal with this frightening change? The best way to deal with the social media revolution is via social, and to leverage the power of the crowd, in other words crowdsourcing: Outsourcing a job that is traditionally performed by a designated group of people (e.g. employees or contractors) to a large undefined mass of people (the "crowd") in the pubic.


Using the Crowd as Your Advocates

If you fear negative reviews or negative WOM, take a look at the bright side. Forrester analyst Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff reported in Groundswell that positive WOM is typically much more prevalent then negative WOM. Specifically, the split is usually 80% positive and 20% negative. And if there are just not enough hands in your company to deal with the 20% of detractors, maybe you can try crowdsourcing to the other 80% of promoters and let them help you settle it the case.


Crowdsourcing Stock Photo_resize.jpg


Aside from being economical, crowdsourcing has the added benefit of being more credible and persuasive, because it is the voice of independent 3rd parties not related to the company. You may be surprised to find that you have more fans coming to your defense than you knew. The community has a tendency of exposing the truth, and silences those negative influencers who are merely looking for trouble.


But, on the other hand, if the fault is indeed on your side, then you should act responsibly and apologize to the public. Otherwise, you run the risk of lose even those 80% of positive voices. The famous "Dell laptop on fire" incident in 2006 is an example, where Dell handled their own fault very well on their community forum and resulted in much consumer support and confidence.



So negativity should not be the reason to fear the social world. As with everything, there are always risks. In the case of dealing with the social media revolution, as long as you don't abuse it, crowdsourcing the positive voices out there could have enormous benefits.



Photo Credit

by Ludwig Gatzke


About the Author
Dr. Michael Wu was the Chief Scientist at Lithium Technologies from 2008 until 2018, where he applied data-driven methodologies to investigate and understand the social web. Michael developed many predictive social analytics with actionable insights. His R&D work won him the recognition as a 2010 Influential Leader by CRM Magazine. His insights are made accessible through “The Science of Social,” and “The Science of Social 2”—two easy-reading e-books for business audience. Prior to industry, Michael received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley’s Biophysics program, where he also received his triple major undergraduate degree in Applied Math, Physics, and Molecular & Cell Biology.
Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Well writtent, Michael. And even if companies *still* fear the social world after reading's happening anyway, right? Bloggers are blogging, Twitterers and tweeting, etc. Might as well get in the game and try to harness it for your advantage...

Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

That is exactly right Mike.


The only way to deal with the social media revolution is via social means. That is the only way to put the numbers on a level playing field. Otherwise, the mass public will always outnumber the company. It is like Clay Shirky's recent book titled "Here Comes Everybody", whether you like it or not. The social media revolution is happening. And it is a social dilemma that everyone will need to deal with.



Occasional Contributor ehchkay
Occasional Contributor


Great post Michael and very relevant for the brands today. Social media has made communications gap so short that epidemics +ve or -ve happen at lightening pace. 


But catching these trends is a critical activity that brands need to use social media for. Traditionally brands used to rely on market researchers to catch the market trends and trends within early adopters and develop their positioning accordingly. In today's socially connected world these trends happen in fast waves. If brands are not listening and reacting fast enough - they are missing the opportunity and risking in their brand being obsolete. 


For e.g. Toyota is now going through hell to maintain their brand. Their first and only social media endeavor is to have a twitter account to manage their brand there. But is that enough? Toyota is one of the most liked and trusted brands in the world. Yet they didnt invest in identifying and nurturing those brand advocates. In this practical example, with an army of brand advocates, Toyota could have harnessed the advocate's power and steered them towards negative circles in the social media - coming out more transparent and sincere.




Lithium Alumni (Retired) Lithium Alumni (Retired)
Lithium Alumni (Retired)

Hello Haresh,


Very good point on Toyota's recent situation. So my take is that don't wait until something terrible has happened then start cultivating your advocates. If Dell did not have a well established community of brand advocates before the Dell laptop on fire incident, they would have been in similar situation as Toyota today.


You can cultivate your most loyal advocate when things are going well. Because it is easier to gain your customer's confidence and establish a good relationship with them when nothing bad has happen yet. A characteristic of human relationship is that once the relationship is established and well-maintained, they tend to stay even through tough situations. If you have an old friend who happen to mess couple of times, would you give him the benefit of the doubt? I certainly would. But without the relationship first, now there is no reason for customers to give Toyota any benefit of the doubt. Toyota will face a much tougher time now, because they essentially have to rebuild their consumer's confidence from scratch.