Social Media “Crowd Swarming”: a natural impulse

Today I would like to define a new term in Social Media: “crowd swarming”.

Crowd swarming is when a multitude of people, connected socially through social media, move as if en masse over a very short timespan towards the same target digital content.

The rapid ability for people to share without having to think (to post to their profile, or to tweet from the street) means that crowds of people swarm en masse towards a target that captures global interest within minutes.

The phenomenon of crowd swarming is something new that has evolved as a result of the ease with which news and information can now travel through society – making information spead faster than ever before. We have seen examples of this in News (Michael Jackson’s death on twitter), with Entertainment (the movie industry now rely not on an entire opening weekend, but instead just the opening screenings before the reviews are pasted all over twitter), and this week we’ve seen it with Gossip (the invasion of Tiger Woods’ private life on YouTube).

As we move to the future this will become more apparent on other social media like Facebook – we’ve seen Mark (Zuckerberg) and friends creating usable opportunities to not just view comments but importantly to add your own comments without the previous pain of delay and login and platform disparity.

Anyone who says crowd swarming has been around since email misunderstands the concept: email was replication. I’d have a copy and send it to you. You’d send it on. The Claire Swire blowjob debacle is an excellent example of replication – we all knew very quickly, but the crowd didn’t swarm – the emails did. Social media means that now it is possible (in principal) for there to be one record of an event that everybody swarms around to see. Like one update in facebook with 10,000,000 comments.

This phenomenon is the digital version of a stampede of people moved by hysteria.

The cool thing is, when you follow a link that 16,000 people have ‘liked’ on Facebook, you don’t actually know if you also like it until you get there. But you click anyway. You place great weight on the fact that the hype is created in part from your friends recommendations.

This directly compares to a natural impulse of crowd hysteria. Take for instance the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona: When you see 20,000 people running towards you with ashen faces of fear, you begin running. Fast. You don’t know what the bulls the crowd have seen even look like yet, but something about the wide-eyed fear and the every-man-for-himself sprinting quickly convinces you that you need to run as well!

Note: This article is a work in progress. Please feel free to comment and add to the debate – i will aim to include (and credit) any excellent statements or examples or amendments!

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  1. July 13, 2011 at 23:32

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