“Slacktivism: The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.”
Urban Dictionary, quoted by Sarah Kessler in ‘Why social media is reinventing activism‘
One thing the real estate industry feels particularly acutely at the moment is change. Market change, financial change, technological change, even customer change.
Our industry is undergoing one of the most seismic sets of changes it has ever seen, and many who have built their businesses around traditional perceptions of customer service, marketing or even pricing, are beginning to become casualties. In many ways, the real estate industry’s embrace of, or struggle to embrace, social media, is a perfect crystallization of all of these issues, as those platforms personify the acceleration of the pace at which information is shared, disrupt existing marketing models, and change the way the web is consumed, away from pages, and more towards conversations between people.
Malcolm Gladwell On Social Media And Over Confidence
At the heart of many discussions surrounding the use and adoption of social media, is the questioning of its real-world effectiveness. Can these platforms truly impact long-lasting, meaningful change in a manner that goes beyond simply ‘liking’ something? Can truly effective change be achieved, or is it simply, at massive scale, that we’ve submitted to feel-good clicking, rather than actual participation and association with a cause?
It’s true that these platforms have recently had a strong (or at minimum well publicized) hand in the toppling of regimes, the resignation of elected officials, and even the financial support of the democratic process itself, but how are these platforms changing traditional methods of collective activism? Many in the real estate industry purport to be using social media to raise levels of awareness for brands, their own agendas, and product launches, but one with much discussion, over the long term, has been the ‘Raise The Bar’ discussion, currently one of the largest and most engaged groups within the industry on Facebook.
The group discusses many issues, from improvements in agent perception, the future of brokerages, professionalism, and best practices. It’s become a concentrated hub of online activity, in many ways, for discussing the multitude of problems the industry is currently up against. However, in order for such a group to be effective, I argue that it needs to result in real-world action, real-world results, and needs to break from the conversation, into inspiring actual change, either through lobbying local associations (for example to change entry requirements for agents), or broader, mandated changes that force change at scale. While casual ‘me too’ engagement at scale leads to cumulatively more (but smaller) strong advocates capable of making that change, it brings into question how effective such social organization can actually be when exclusively housedin these platforms.
“Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice, but by motivating them to do the things people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice.”
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker: ‘Small Change. Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted‘
This is the question Courtney Boyd Myers explores in response to Malcolm Gladwell’s provocative exploration of online activism for the New Yorker. Gladwell argues that modern forms of social media cannot lead to the same types of high-risk activism that resulted in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and he draws several parallels between the faux-activism of changing your avatar in support of a cause, and the real-world activism of lunch counter sit-ins. In essence, is clicking the ‘like’ button enough of an actionable endorsement?
While Gladwell says no, several high-profile advocates of social media have written in strong opposition explaining why the answer is an emphaticyes. How ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ something is not necessarily a call to action, but more of a measure of mass agreed, mutual sentiment.
The incredibly powerful reach of social platforms, purely attributed to their scale, makes it much easier to self-organize today because there’s simply a faster, easier way to harness casual enthusiasm, and while it’s true that, as Gladwell suggests, real activism is highly reliant upon years of grass-roots offline cause-building, social media (as he also agrees), has the capacity to accelerate the growth of these causes, often with explosive and destructive ends. Gladwell argues that causes need to have the foundation of real-world activism strongly in place, across large groups of people,before social media can begin to be effective. Digital social media organization in and of itself is ultimately impotent, and nothing more than chatter dissolving into the perpetual noise of a news feed.
Echoing both Boyd Myers and Gladwell, David Leavitt explores the idea that in order for a movement in any form to truly be strong, it needs to have significant strength outside of its reliance upon technology.Leavitt argues that in order to be effective, organizations looking to create long-lasting meaningful change need to create varying levels of action, so that advocacy doesn’t devolve into an endless series of Facebook ‘likes’. Indeed, groups formed around causes often inadvertently focus upon relentless negativity, under the guise of support and advocacy, and take hold in exploring the problems, rather than the solutions. Unfortunately, this results in a somewhat inaccurate impression that the situation is, as Nicholas Kristof accurately describes, an “abyss of failure and hopelessness. Who wants to invest in a failure?” It’s true that when it comes to social media, a catchy video, rather than reports and statistics, or even the hard evidence, can garner more support, or at least awareness of a cause, and in many ways, one of the most effective ways to market industry improvements such as ‘Raise The Bar’ is to rebrand the issue to gain more support.
There have been many recent examples of social media activism at work, from SOPA and the efforts to change proposals to internet regulation, to the ‘It Gets Better‘ campaign which aims to support and inspire young people facing harassment, through to advocacy organization Invisible Children’s KONY2012, which came to widespread attention through the sharing of a lengthy 30 minute video which, at the time of this writing, has been viewed over 90 million times.
While KONY appeared to come out of nowhere for many who were exposed to it, the movement against the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony has its roots in some questionable sources, tenured over many years. It was the culmination of years of real-world, grass-roots activism efforts, that were propelled to wider consciousness only recently through the use of YouTube.
Writing in Forbes, Anthony Wing Kosner explores KONY’s origins, and plots the journey the movement took and how the explosive spread of the video was only the last piece of a very large and complicated puzzle of real-world activism. Interestingly, and against the trend of how most online ideas originate and spread, the movement has its origins not on either the east or west coasts, but in what Kosner terms ‘Silicon Prairie,” something that appears to be on the rise online as reflected by platforms such asPinterest, where online adoption phenomenons are originating at scale and digital customer use from the heartlands, and then spreading outwards, the reverse of many early adopter cycles that begin either in Silicon Valley (San Francisco) or Silicon Alley (New York City).
Referencing the substantial data analysis from social tracking service Social Flow, Kosner charts the spread of the original video, where it began to trend on Twitter first, and specifically why certain geographies appeared to know and understand the video faster than others. Importantly, the notion of attention philanthropy, as promoted and encouraged by those backing KONY over long periods of time, activatedsubstantial online activity, and allowed the video and its message to spread incredibly aggressively.
The early network growth of KONY 2012, analysis by SocialFlow
“Dense clusters of activity that were essential to the message’s spread: networks of youth that Invisible Children wanted to promote this video, deploying the grass-roots support of these groups was essential.”
Anthony Wing Kosner: ‘Suspicious Sequel, The Social Flow of KONY2012 Is Not What You First Thought’ (Forbes)
When looking at the data of online activity, those dense clusters of activism were surprisingly geographic, with the earliest signs of trending activity in Birmingham, Alabama. In fact, the issue was trending in that region before the video had been posted online. Social Flow’s data suggests that the initial growth of the online distribution of KONY’s message was heavily supported by Christian youth, often identified and associated with posting psalms in their bios for example. Indeed, Invisible Children had been targeting public high schools and church groups across the Southern United States as far back as 2005 – seven years before the video exploded one morning on Facebook.
“Coming in January we are trying to hit as many high schools, churches, and colleges as possible with this movie. We are able to be the Trojan Horse in a sense, going into a secular realm and saying, guess what, life is about orphans, and it’s about the widow. It’s about the oppressed. That’s God’s heart. And to sit in a public high school and tell them about that has been life-changing. Because they get so excited. And it’s not driven by guilt, it’s driven be an adventure and the adventure is God’s.”
Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, Quoted by Kosner in 2005 Christian conference in San Antonio (Audio Recording)
As Kosner illustrates, the groundwork for producing a video that would be spread aggressively online, to the point where 90 million people had watched a 30 minute video (in itself an impressive achievement), had been laid out prior for many years, and like most instant hits, KONY was far from an overnight success.
It’s obvious to understand where Christianity has an obvious legacy of alignment with movements of social justice, but Kosner follows the money, and finds that Invisible Children has backers with not only strong social conservative political views, but also ties to anti-gay organizations (such as the National Christian Foundation), and politically motivated groups with powerful lobbying budgets.
While Kosner describes how these highly politicized organizations have disbursed funds to several anti-gay groups, current Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has also promoted the inclusion of anti-gay agendas in his policy making, fostered by, as Kosner continues, support from social conservative groups that alsocoincidentally fund Invisible Children. Indeed, Russell encouraged those targeted students to engage in “extremely low-key, or stealth evangelism”.
Sudarsan Raghavan goes even further, explaining how Invisible Children’s political ties to’The Family’ (a Christian Political Fraternity) explained how the issue of overthrowing Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony was potentially (and allegedly) fast-tracked to the desks of elected officials in Washington.
Again, following the money, Raghavan explains how Invisible Children’s primary product isn’t actually aid to the African in need, but rather film production, advocacy, merchandise and assisting lobbying efforts within the U.S. State Department for increased military presence in an oil and mineral-rich area of Eastern Africa.
This approach closely dovetails the 2007 AFRICOM military initiative signed into effect by then President Bush, perceived by some as aimed at reducing the influence of China and securing U.S. reserves in Africa. A strong counter to this perceived view, well laid out by Robert Moeller can be found here (although he does suggest that the organization is still in place to promote American interests).
“[AFRICOM] will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.”
White House Statement: ‘President Bush Creates a Department of Defense Unified Combatant Command for Africa‘
Further criticism of the film itself argues that the main focus of the KONY2012 film relies heavily on interviews conductedbetween 2003 and 2006 with Ugandan villagers, many years prior to what is happening right now. Combined with the incredibly public mental breakdown of Jason Russell himself, the closing of comments for the initial YouTube video, and the emergence of potential ties to evangelical groups (for example, Russell was also an undergraduate student at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Virginia) begin to swiftly erode the equity and positive will built around the movement’s perceived causes.
Invisible Children is not a registered charity, however, its finances are published online, where we can learn that only 32% of the $8.6 Million recently raised by the organization went to physical, meaningful aid, whereas the remaining 68% went on salaries, travel, transportation and film production. These are figures, politicized discussions, and substantial issues with very severe real-world consequences that many simply clicking ‘like’ on a YouTube video in slacktivist, peer-approved support of a cause which their friends had forwarded to them, would simply be unaware of. It’s buyer bewareon steroids.
To go further, the influence of celebrity upon an issue such as KONY can further complicate matters. Will Krugman combines the discussion with that of the risks of GroupThink,the process whereby a pool of people unanimously decide a solution to a problem, and where the cohesion and growth of the group itself takes precedence over dissenting opinion and constructive discussion. The solution reached often doesn’t solve the problem at hand, has little basis in reality, and in some cases, can actually make the problem much worse. Krugman skillfully explores the high risk, and high reward of social media activism, referencing SOPA as a successful example, but KONY as one that isn’t.
“You need to speak up. You have to listen to the voice in your head telling you that something seems off, and to not get your advocacy advice from Kim Kardashian.”
Will Krugman: ‘The Risks Of GroupThink With Social Media Activism‘
This is the explicit risk with activism within social media, and one the real estate industry is seeing, albeit at a much less impressive scale, around discussions concerning syndication, and raising the bar.
The capacity to participate through social platforms, essentially from your couch without meaningful action resulting in real-world change, holds the potential to be damaging to the perception of the industry, productivity, and perhaps most importantly, clients. Our own efforts to align with causes can actually also be harming those causes themselves.
Many inside and outside the real estate industry, spread the word on Facebook and Twitter in the strong, and passionate belief that they are doing the right thing, simply without realizing the consequences of what they’re doing. For example, as Rob Hahn has consistently argued, if the real estate industry raises the entry requirements in order to be an agent, or if there’s a strong enough voice for uncoupling the MLS from NAR, then what naturally results is a significantly lower number of real estate professionals. This has enormous consequences not only for the individuals who wouldn’t make the cut, but for NAR themselves of course. Lobbying power begins to get disrupted, and the issue begins to further fragment, instead of unite.
These are consequences of building ‘movements’ online surrounding raising the bar as one example, and unless it results in real-world change, instead of perpetual chatter within Facebook, unless it leaves the digital space, as the syndication issue has begun to for some smaller brokerages, it remains, and will always remain, impotent.
Let’s take another example from outside the industry. What do all KONY’s YouTube video’s views really add up to? How does all the online social ‘awareness’ of an issue actually result in helping people or achieving the goals of the cause?
Perhaps incorrectly, many campaigns assume that visibility is a direct path to concrete action, and that the best venue for such action is the one where people are spending the most time: Facebook. However, this is about as true an assumption as advertising having a 100% conversion rate, or believing that online users behave in rational, linear ways. Unfortunately, the rampant spread of slacktivism, whereby clicking a link or tweeting becomes important, just because it shows minimal conviction and peer-encouraged affiliation with an issue, does demonstrate a shift in that those people sitting on the couch who were previously doing nothing are at least now doing something, has value, especially at scale, and this is the primary argument against Gladwell’s initial article.
It’s true that however questionably effective a cause may be, internet protests make headlines, and therefore attract attention, which indirectly begins to cause change. Is this really activism, or just a shift in method? How effective and meaningful is that change? Perhaps this says more about how those headlines are generated, rather than the activist efforts themselves.
Is ‘Clicktivism’ Destroying Meaningful Social Activism?
As Rachel Sklar neatly argues “social media activism is a gateway drug to real activism” , and while it’s very true that social media makes activism contagious, it still needs the substance of real-world, offline activism to be in place first, before it can spread, and that’s where the misperception begins to happen. Causes without that real, tangible substance that solve real-world problems with actual change, are ultimately meaningless.
In one of the most passionate and thoughtful responses to Gladwell, the always insightful Mathew Ingram in his ‘Memo To Gladwell’ series for GigaOm, offers that Gladwell essentially dismisses social media as irrelevant to social activism, implying that it’s ephemeral, and predicated upon weak ties. However, Ingram skillfully counters that whereas Gladwell draws a clearly defined line between the online and offline worlds with his arguments, for an increasing number of people, those worlds are blurring aggressively, to the point where they are almostthe same thing in the era of ubiquitous mobile access.
Citing writer Zeynep Tufekci’s stellar work in the field of technosociology with the blurred line between both worlds, Ingram argues that to even make such a distinction shows a fundamental misunderstanding as to how information spreads, ideas are shared, and causes grow. Tufekci points out that ‘Facebook plays a key role in a collective action / information cascade,’ fueling existing movements with often incredibly aggressive momentum, propelling causes to the forefront of our attention. This, of course, is also a customer pattern of behavior currently of great interest to digital marketers.
Out of these information cascades, she argues, comes real-world action, such as was the case with SOPA. ‘Cascade’ is an appropriate term for something fueled by a gathering momentum, especially online, and whenever we see these kinds of stories ripple through a news feed, uniting users across the globe in a shared, common conversation, it’s easy to see why they result in that same momentum being carried over to the real world. However, are there costs associated with joining in with this collective behavior? Are there consequences of online dissent, even if it’s as part of a large group? Ingram describes the problem:
“No-one wants to take action by themselves because of the consequences, but since there is no way to be sure that anyone else is going to join them, revolution becomes a stalemate.”
Mathew Ingram: ‘Memo to Gladwell: Social Media Helps Activism, And Here’s How‘
Reminiscent of the collective group decision making of James Surowiecki’s ‘Wisdom Of Crowds,’ where individual responsibility is abdicated and decentralized in favor of submitting to the collective will of the herd, by joining in with the ‘me too’ liking, commenting and sharing via social platforms, it allows us to perhaps align with causes in a way that we wouldn’t in the real world, therefore carefully encouraging participation in a way that’s new to us. Simply put, it’s easier to get lost in a sea of a thousand likes.
And whereas collective action barriers, as both Ingram and Tufekci continue, have usually centered around co-ordination and communication problems (why effective grass-roots movements used to take years to build), those same problems of mass acceleration, distribution and awareness are much diminished.
Today, getting the word out is far easier in an age where everyone can be a publisher. In fact, social media explicitly encourages the building of social momentum, especially though the use of the ‘like’ buttons outside of Facebook itself. It’s a synthetic, highly stylized and often false sense of connecting to a larger community, that appeals to chemical release in the brain, as well as a visceral need to feel part of something larger than ourselves.
As Ingram expertly concludes, the great irony of the Gladwell piece is that the impact of social media upon revolution and social change is that it deliberately creates ‘tipping points’, the same concept which in itself propelled Gladwell to wider appeal.
Collective action, like any other kind of cumulative online brand building, takes place based on the slow, steady build-up of small events, and seemingly unconnected discussions, over long periods of time. The difference with social platforms is that they bring a much needed stimulant to that process, and incredible scale.
“Sticking a pamphlet in each door has been replaced by email lists in a lot of places. Standing on the corner with one of those megaphone things has become Twitter. Petitions can easily be shared on Facebook instead of being taken from door to door or standing outside the supermarket. And thousands of people can organize for rallies and demonstrations in almost no time at all. And in some cases, stories that might have been overlooked by the mainstream media are kept alive by online activists, as in the Trayvon Martin Case.”
Michel Martin: ‘Social Media Changing The Nature Of Activism?‘
The notion that social media provides a ‘gateway drug’ for deeper engagement with causes, across large, diverse networks of people is also something explored at length by writer Brian Solis. In his piece ‘Malcolm Gladwell, Your Slip Is Showing,’ he discusses why everyone now contributes to the evolution of culture and media, to the point where it doesn’t matter what platform is used, as it’s the network of people that’s truly important, moving the discussion away from tools and ties, and more towards aligned interests and shared emotions.
Traditionally an incredibly difficult thing to measure, quantify and even optimize, Solis’ idea of the spontaneous, simultaneous spark of strong, weak and temporary ties between potential online activists allows causes to propel the distribution of information in incredible, and never-before-seen ways. Diverse groups aligning around interests, inside and outside of industries, allows ideas to spread rapidly, especially if they are within densely-connected networks, such as a local market. The tools, such as Facebook, simply allow those networks to connect faster by creating denser, more cohesive networks. For example, most of us are part of several networks online. They might be friends, professionals, family, perhaps even just random people you’ve accepted. The denser the network, in terms of how closely (and frequently) the individuals within those groups interact online, the faster the information will spread. This is particularly acute during an event of breaking news, or something truly exceptional, and the phenomenon of ‘I found out about it first from my friends on Facebook’ is an increasingly common one. Incredible events bring us together, they activate groups and make them denser, and therefore more powerful online.
Subtitle: Online Activism
Gladwell’s argument, as most of the counters suggest, is that he essentially denies the strength of social culture, or at least the social culture the web is increasingly fostering, characterizing it as being almost exclusively predicated on a large volume of weak ties, and that information struggles to pass swiftly through different networks such as these. This same argument, of course, could be used in opposition to social media in oppressive regimes, where it can just as easily be used as a tool to monitor collective online dissent, as well as galvanize collective, activist activity.
In one of the best pieces concerning the discussion Gladwell sparks, Alexis Madrigal, writing in The Atlantic, goes further on the idea of the strength of social media’s weak ties, again countering Gladwell’s assertion that weak-tie networks don’t have the dedication or structure to take on established and entrenched real-world power structures.
Madrigal suggests that while it’s indeed true that modern communication technologies such as social platforms can actually reinforce existing power structures, the idea of a leaderless, unorganized, homogenous mass of online opinion, is actually a myth.
“Twitter acts as a kind of human recommendation engine, in which I am the algorithm.”
Alexis Madrigal: ‘Gladwell On Social Media And Activism‘
Madrigal rightfully points out that face to face is simply not the only way to build strong ties, with many experiencing incredibly strong ties online having still never met the other person in the real world. Also, a tremendous volume of weak ties still cumulatively adds up to a lot more strong ones than you’d ever have had before, and that importantly, both weak AND strong ties are able to co-exist within the same network. They simply aren’t the ontological opposites they are often portrayed as. Again quoting Tufekci’s work, Madrigal offers that ‘large pools of weak ties are crucial to being able to build robust networks of stronger ties – and internet use is a key to this process’.
To suggest that social networks are leaderless is to make the same comparison of grass-roots movements in the real-world. In many ways, either through deferring to the group’s administrator, or to the most vocal commenter, those leadersnaturally emerge online as part of the conversation. Of course online groups, especially in social platforms, can have leaders, strategy, and clearly established lines of authority. These exist in almost all of the examples I’ve discussed here, including real estate’s ‘Raise The Bar’ group. But to what effect? How do a million small protests, however insignificant, actually add up to something powerful?
Anil Dash, echoing both Ingram and Solis, proposes that what’s new about social platforms is that they enable and encourage a new type of synthetic personal politics, one which convinces people that changing your avatar is actually a meaningful form of activism. Drawing effectiveness parallels with actual protest marches, which, he argues, also affect little change overall, Dash points out the legacy of quiet, collective civil unrest already playing out, especially online:
“We have had an enormous and concerted act of social disobedience play out over the past half-decade, where millions have decided that the present regime of intellectual property law and corporate control over the way we communicate is no longer tenable.”
Anil Dash, ‘Make The Revolution‘
Going further, Dash puts it in even simpler terms:
“The people who actually make things happen aren’t just sitting around clicking ‘like’ on things online.”
And that’s the primary criticism of how this specifically applies to the real estate industry. Until the sharing, liking, commenting and group dynamics begin to translate to real-world action, they will remain confined with the social platforms themselves.
While social is already highly proven to act like adding rocket fuel to a cause, it has to be a real-world one first, with concrete, actionable goals, defined timeframes, or other items of urgency or gravitas. Without them, it simply dissolves into the news feed, and remains within the realm of online, often ineffective discussion.
Many argue that simply ‘keeping the conversation going’ is a goal in itself, but if the goal is to truly ‘raise the bar’, then it has to cast its net wider into the real-world, and begin to result in concrete steps acted upon, for example, by local associations.
Whereas Gladwell points to the specific risks associated with activism, such as the present threat of violence and personal harm in the case of the civil rights movement, these cannot be used as some form of litmus test or measure of what constitutes the strength of a cause. He stresses that such high-stakes activism simply doesn’t exist on the web, which make social activism somewhat of an oxymoron.
Affiliating ourselves with causes, simply for the sake of peer approval, is one way that awareness has spread through the social web, but it’s also not uncommon for those same alliances to blossom into real, offline friendships. Maria Popova proposes that online communities not only broaden our scope of empathy, but that, going deeper, empathy is actually the missing link between awareness and action. In decentralizing responsibility, she argues, there’s a monumental impact upon collective awareness.
In order of action, she describes it as follows:
“The power of the social web lies in the sequence of its three capacities: To inform, to inspire and to incite.”
Maria Popova: ‘Malcolm Gladwell Is #Wrong‘
Simply put, big change comes in small packages, especially online, and the rudimentary communication amongst individuals in real-time allows people to unite around a common goal as never before. In aligning around a cause, to the point where online activism becomes real-world change, is dependent upon empathy, the density of the networks engaging with those causes, and the strength of the content and conversations being produced inside them.
Until such time as this moves beyond the slacktivism currently so prevalent within real estate groups online, and more into the realms of information, inspiration, and truly grasps the power to incite meaningful change, those conversations will never leave the groups that simply archive them.
Jennifer Aaker: ‘The Dragonfly Effect’ (http://amzn.to/J0jfRW)
Courtney Boyd Myers: ‘Has Social Media Reinvented Social Activism?’ (http://tnw.co/f16xKn)
Vinton Cerf: ‘Internet Access Is Not a Human Right’ (http://nyti.ms/zuN1B4)
Michael Clausen, A Conversation On TED: ‘How Effective Is Social Media Activism (And ‘Slacktivism’) In The World Today?’ (http://bit.ly/J0dSlu)
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: ‘Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life’ (http://amzn.to/J0jPPz)
Anil Dash: ‘Make The Revolution’ (http://bit.ly/9NaPTr)
Monica Eng: ‘Social Media Activism Transforms Food Industry’ (http://bit.ly/J0e2tn)
Allison Fine: ‘Momentum’ (http://amzn.to/J0iUhX)
Malcolm Gladwell: ‘Small Change. Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted’ (http://nyr.kr/b4i0M6)
Mark Glaser: ‘Mediatwits #44: Social Media’s Role In Activism, Trayvon Martin; Pinterest’s Legal Drama’ (http://to.pbs.org/HA8DW7)
Mikki Halpin: ‘Start With Listening, Not Talking’ (http://nyti.ms/zk1PRV)
Yong Hu: ‘The Revolt of China’s Twittering Classes’ (http://bit.ly/J0h2px)
Matthew Ingram: ‘Memo to Gladwell: Social Media Helps Activism, And Here’s How’ (http://bit.ly/r3exCI)
Matthew Ingram: ‘Malcolm Gladwell: Social Media Still Not a Big Deal’ (http://bit.ly/gYU5Is)
Matthew Ingram: ‘Memo To Malcolm Gladwell: Nice Hair, But You Are Wrong’ (http://bit.ly/csC1GE)
Invisible Children: ‘Financial Disclosure Documentation’ (http://bit.ly/J0kosK)
Patrick Henningsen: ‘Exposing KONY 2012 And Invisible Children’s Right-Wing Evangelical And CIA Relationship’ (http://bit.ly/JojFSZ)
Beth Kanter: ‘The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting With Social Media to Drive Change’ (http://amzn.to/J0j5d8)
Sarah Kessler: ‘Why Social Media Is Reinventing Activism’ (http://on.mash.to/blakWE)
Anthony Wing Kosner: ‘Suspicious Sequel: The Social Flow of KONY 2012 Is Not What You First Thought’ (http://onforb.es/I58Q3E)
Nicholas D. Kristof: ‘Boast, Build And Sell’ (http://nyti.ms/a3Te58)
Will Krugman: ‘The Risks Of Groupthink With Social Media Activism’ (http://bit.ly/Jokz1I)
David Leavitt: ‘Does Social Media Help Or Hurt Activism?’ (http://bit.ly/JokjzO)
Stephen Littlejohn: ‘Theories of Human Communication’ (http://amzn.to/J0jCfc)
Geoff Livingston: ‘Turn Slacktivists Into Activists With Social Media’ (http://on.mash.to/bGtNDX)
Gilad Lotan: ‘See How Invisible Networks Helped A Campaign Capture The World’s Attention’ (http://bit.ly/w8MCHJ)
Alexis Madrigal: ‘Gladwell On Social Media And Activism’ (http://bit.ly/cjowZW)
Matthew C. Nisbet: ‘iProtest: Social Media And The Evolving Nature Of Political Activism’ (http://bit.ly/shegec)
New York Times Room For Debate: ‘Fighting War Crimes, Without Leaving the Couch?’ (http://nyti.ms/yTO4Pw)
NPR: All Tech Considered: ‘Social Media Changing The Nature Of Activism?’ (http://n.pr/J0eFDa)
Chris Paine: ‘KONY 2012’s Struggle To Remain Visible’ (http://bit.ly/JojR4v)
Maria Popova: ‘Malcolm Gladwell Is #Wrong’ (http://bit.ly/qXPpzA)
Pamela Rutledge: ‘Four Ways Social Media Is Redefining Activism’ (http://bit.ly/bodfD8)
Brian Solis: ‘Malcolm Gladwell, Your Slip is Showing’ (http://bit.ly/dICkkq)
Biz Stone: ‘Biz Stone On Twitter And Activism’ (http://bit.ly/9sRiUL)
James Surowiecki: ‘The Wisdom Of Crowds’ (http://amzn.to/JZ1vUP)
Zeynep Tufekci: ‘Social Media’s Small, Positive Role In Human Relationships’ (http://bit.ly/ImQ2Oi)
Zeynep Tufekci: ‘What Gladwell Gets Wrong: The Real Problem is Scale Mismatch ‘ (http://bit.ly/8X9AU6)
Peter Walker: ‘Kony 2012 Charity’s ‘Cover The Night’ Protest Draws Less Visible Support’ (http://bit.ly/IDUlp6)
David Weinberger: ‘Gladwell Proves Too Much’ (http://bit.ly/e7ke4A)
Wikipedia: ‘KONY 2012’ (http://bit.ly/zTcgzx)
Robert Wright: ”Kony 2012′ Night Arrives at Last’ (http://bit.ly/Jok2Nf)
Matthew, while I think it may be time for you to get an editor :), the thoughts in this piece mirror what Rocky and I have seen relative to fundraising for http://mffo.org
We are thankful for any and all participation in our cause, but it is clear that a large segment of the population who repeat our messages have no desire to do any more to help than that. Their social capital is the only investment they are willing to make. And, quite frankly, I think their role in helping spread information is important, but we are seeing more of the slacktivism over time and less of real activism. Some of that can be related to “donor fatigue,” but some of it is simply the growing feeling that simply “liking” something on Facebook is enough.
It rarely is. If talk is cheap, likes are cheaper.
Haha! Thanks Jeff, I am a firm believer that complex issues call for deep explorations, and am a big supporter of the long reads movement online. Thank you for spending the time to read this discussion, I’m always grateful of my readership.
Thanks also for sharing your personal experiences in this field, I know it’s an issue close to your family’s hearts, and that the problematic issue of ‘liking being enough’ would be one that resonated with you in particular.
I love the last line of your comment – my sense is that it could be the title of an amazing post of yours in the future.
Some of us truly do have a desire to do more than “like.” WHEN we can. Until then, we support causes the best way we possibly can, even if it is just with social media capital (aka “whuffie). It doesn’t mean we won’t ever convert into giving or that is all we ever intend to do. Just like we have customers in our industry who say they might buy something for years. Eventually they probably will. We just have to be patient. There might be some real reasons that is all they can do. For now.
See also my post below.
Lori, as I’m sure you are well aware, I would never dis the likes. I believe the likes and shares are an essential part of online activism. There have been many “campaigns” that we’ve run that relied heavily on the social capital of our friends and family and the resulting real world capital contributed would likely never have been contributed without them.
What I’m commenting on is a growing sense that the ease of liking and sharing is creating a diversion from what is ultimately needed to make things work. In a bad economy, this ease helps people, who would otherwise have to make a sacrifice, “contribute” in ways that cause them less pain. I not only get that, I support that. The challenge, whether it’s MFFO or RTB is how to motivate people beyond the like, beyond the chatter and get them to do more. Rob’s comment below certainly details how this has been accomplished in the political arena. I think there is much to be learned from that.
Wow. Humility ~ YES! Proactive solutions over constant complaining ~ YES! So has the ease of participating, or maybe even the peer pressure of seemingly ‘supporting’ a cause minimized its effectiveness? Is it an accurate reflection of true support? All valid questions. On the other hand…Social has facilitated a conversation that is getting the questions asked, and it all starts with the conversation and I believe there HAS to be room for opposing views.
I would love to see the Raise The Bar discussion propose actual achievable solutions about how the industry can move forward in a meaningful way and much of that conversation has been squashed by egos and agendas. Let’s look for collaboration amongst the leaders and shepherd in the young/new perspectives.
As always Matthew ~ Very thoughtful and thorough!
“Life rewards Action”
Many thanks Teri, that’s so amazing to hear that you enjoyed the post, and the videos in particular.
I’m thrilled to hear you read the post as a call to action, as that is what I believe is ultimately needed here, and while the conversation is important, it has to be conversation with a stated goal in mind, and the ‘me too’ type of activity masquerading as activism within the industry does very little to actually achieve anything in the real world.
Great, great, and amazing post, Matthew. Incredibly well researched.
However, I don’t really see the point of going so deep into the KONY2012 story. Doesn’t really add to your point, and just makes it seem like you dislike evangelical Christians.
I half hoped you would quote Mao somewhere in this post: “All power comes from the barrel of a gun”…
Hi there Rob, thanks so much for the kind words on the post, you really made my day.
To clarify the inclusion of so much KONY material, simply put, it’s a classic example of the modern complexities of slacktivism, and one which many will know, but not ‘truly’ know, which is why I included so much background research into its origins, and perhaps motives. The story runs deep, over many years, and much of the research I conducted was actually left out here.
While I’m personally ambivalent about the religious motives of the groups associated with KONY, much of the research I used was not, and my post here, like a lot of the other reference material I used, is simply a reflection of that, geared towards an understanding of a larger point about social platforms.
As for the Mao quote? I’ll take that as an action item…
For future editions, I would consider whether that anti-religious angle to the KONY thing really fits in with your narrative then.
I get that some folks — especially on the secular left — are just uncomfortable with anything religious, er, scratch that, anything Christian. (Since I don’t see them hollering about Islam.) But the point you were making was that online activism that succeeds is often undergirded by significant offline activism and organization (including money and resources). No need to get into the haters who suspect anything Christ-related.
In a way, I think KONY is a classic example of NOT slacktivism. It is, rather, an example of activism of the offline variety using technology to do awareness raising and public education online, without the turnoffs associated with the organization itself. I think NAR could learn a few lessons from those folks, y’know?
That’s a fair point Rob, and duly noted (and agreed). The only issue I have is with your word ‘often’ – that’s not what I mean here. There are numerous other examples (listed in the post), where those kinds of links do not exist.
As for KONY not empowering slacktivism? That’s a tough call based on the data itself. With all of the millions of likes and video views, very often the question becomes how did it change things in the real world? Many argue that it did very little to change things (hence the use of the word slacktivism), but to your point, if the learnings from these case studies about how the web is changing how people congregate around a cause, help to resonate well within the real estate industry, then I think that’s a great thing.
Brilliant, Matthew. It truly becomes, in my view, a choice of how committed are you to supporting any cause: socially committed, financially committed, or actively committed? Are we content to let others bring about the change (with our support, of course), or are we engaged in the change? Thanks for the deep dive.
Many thanks Tony, that’s very much appreciated. The issue of real-world commitment, as opposed to ‘me too’ activity online, is an absolutely fascinating one.
As I stress in the post, being engaged in real-world change, as supported by the web, but not being exclusively the web, is really the key here.
“Until the sharing, liking, commenting and group dynamics begin to translate to real-world action, they will remain confined with the social platforms themselves.” <—- Spot on, Matthew. Thanks for this.
Many thanks Nobu, wonderful to hear that you enjoyed the post. Very much appreciated.
Wow….thats all I got for this post….Wow, actually two more words: Well Done.
Many thanks Loren, I’m thrilled to hear the post resonated well with you.
First of all, I love ya Matthew. And you do make a point. However I think you missed a key component of research for your blog. Maybe you should have surveyed us to see who actually is involved in bettering the industry OFF-line too??? I’ve been involved in my local & state association for years, and occasionally on a national level, as well as now being in real estate management.
I know MANY of us can back up our words with a long history of ACTIONS. I would be more interested in knowing those statistics among social media “Raise the Bar” groups than making presumptions that we are “just all talk.” I actually was involved off-line BEFORE I was involved online. I actually knew MANY of my “friends” that way before I even joined Facebook, so I know I am not an anomaly.
I also understand Jeff’s frustrations regarding non-profits. I know I have supported MFFO online, but not from my pocket book because that is all I can do (for now) with the economy AND being a single mom with over a $100K in medical bills that I rarely mention. I hope Jeff knows those “likes” are truly from the heart. I have actually helped another charity (Wounded Warrior Project) that is near and dear to my heart raise money, because I couldn’t actually give. Time and talents given are way underrated. And often under appreciated.
I do what I can, when I can, the way I can. And I’m proud of what I have accomplished in my life both for my industry and in philanthropy, and don’t think it needs discounted because I can’t do everything everybody asks me to, online. I would imagine there are many out there like me, if you just really looked deeper.
BTW, I am also quite proud to have been a part of bringing Ronald McDonald House to Charlotte (the last major metro to have one) and in raising over $5K last fall, with less than a couple weeks notice for Wounded Warrior Project with my “slacktivism.”
As you absolutely should be Lori, but my sense is that in achieving that kind of real-world success, it is far from how we’ve defined slacktivism here. As Jeff also reinforces from the post, $5,000 is more powerful than 5,000 likes.
If you dis the 5000 likes, you might not ever get $5000 more dollars. 😉
Haha! Tough to disagree with that, but it’s a big ‘might’ 🙂
Lori, much of our money at MFFO is raised outside of the social media sphere. The largest portion of our funds each year is raised by a small group of women outside of Washington D.C. who hit the streets and get items donated and personally invite friends and family to come and participate in an evening where these donated items are bid on and paid for, face-to-face. Certainly, social media plays a role in creating awareness and in keeping donors up to date on the activities of the charity, but the money raising, at least for us, is still very much hand to hand combat. Even at REBarcamps where MFFO has been supported, the real work of getting people to open their pockets happened face-to-face, with a bucket in hand, and a voice asking people to do more than just give lip service… and standing there until they did. 🙂 There are certainly cases that even we can point to where the money raised was raised entirely online, but those numbers are small potatoes compared the numbers generated by people taking direct action, face-to-face.
Hi Lori, thanks for your thoughtful comment, and I truly appreciate you taking the time to share this here (I love ya too of course!). I read through your thoughts in the RTB group also.
There’s an important distinction to draw here. The discussion of slacktivism is not a critique of the individuals in the group, as some are characterizing it. Indded, most of this point isn’t even about the real estate industry at all, as opposed to recent changes in how the web behaves. Rather, it is a questioning of how such a group within the real estate industry can be effective in the real world.
I truly hope it can be. And much of your feedback supports my conclusions that real-world change is more powerful than social media agreement. I do not doubt, or question, the achievements of the many individuals like you, who are accomplishing incredible things in the real world, every day. I think they need to be celebrated. That for me, is what it really means to raise the bar. This is, of course, not confined to the real estate industry, as I’ve explored.
Despite some views to the contrary, real world activism is still far more powerful than social platform ‘slacktivism’, and the more the online groups begin to translate their efforts more effectively from the web to the real-world, at scale, the closer we all get to achieving the broader success of raising the bar.
Keep up the great work.
Well researched and well written! Where is the solution? How do we take the RTB online discussion and “likes” to a place of real-life activism? How do we migrate from the online thoughts to actionable tasks (if you will) and thus, real change?
Thanks so much for your comment and kind words. In offering solutions, it’s complicated, and in many instances, an individual action, however, if something like a social platform can galvanize enough people to simultaneously act upon an issue, at scale, then I believe that kind of change can happen in the real world – SOPA is the classic example of how to do this, as is the work of change.org.
The important thing to recognize in the post is that it has to be strong in the real world first, with social acting as a ‘stimulant’ upon something that’s already happening. If it’s only an online discussion, it very rarely becomes more than that. It’s not ‘how do we take it offline’, more so than ‘how do we accelerate and grow something small that’s already happening offline?’. Social in and of itself, where most of these conversations originate, and never leave, is not enough.
FIrst, thank you for writing such a thoughtful and detailed article on a topic which we all find fascinating: change.
As a regular participant in RTB, I interact with some pretty bright people who have strongly held convictions on important topics such syndication and the role of associations. The usual veneer of politeness shouldn’t be mistaken for an unconscious yearning for peer approval. Over time, I see each individual’s essential beliefs and values that drive their opinions, even if each individual comment seems relatively innocuous.
Is any “real-world action” resulting from these conversations? I think there is. A regular agent like me can become a change agent, even though my associates have no idea the FB group even exists. A small example: last week the head of our firm, Steven Baird, came out to speak to our office of about 100 agents. These sessions are usually about sales performance and company initiatives. But this time I asked him to share his thoughts on syndication, and the session went from a routine update to a detailed and interesting explanation of Steve’s thoughts, what Baird&Warner’s likely policies will be, and how to talk about it to our clients. It was spontaneous and therefore tremendously valuable for our agents, most of whom don’t spend much time thinking about high-level industry issues. We have a strong culture and high levels of interaction in the office, so syndication will be talked about and debated, just like in the FB groups. Awareness precedes change.
We used to call this the “friends and neighbors” effect in opinion research; information exchange and influence largely happened through personal interaction. Social media expands who some of us interact with, but given the demographics of the real estate community, I suspect that personal, face-to-face interaction will remain important. We may not see overt activism emerging directly from the FB groups, but the participants will become change agents and leaders within their own personal spheres.
I always enjoy reading your posts, thank you for your thought leadership on many important issues in our industry.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a wonderful, thoughtful comment. I’m thrilled the post resonated well with you, and I’m a follower (and supporter) of your contributions within the group.
In many ways what you’re advocating is really the solution to the ‘me-too’ chatter inside of Facebook groups (not just real estate ones). If you can truly get all, or a critical mass of the participants to effect real-world change as a result of those discussions, then you really have something powerful. However, as I explore here, most participants are not currently doing that, in favor of ‘liking’ a thread as their mark of support, or vehemently disagreeing with each other. As you reinforce, it is not enough to ‘raise the bar’.
In many ways, as Lori also suggests, it needs to be strong in the real world first, and then become supported by social media, in order to be truly effective, and it’s good to hear, through the comments in the group, that this is something many are already doing. My sense is that many more have the opportunity to do much more than spending time within Facebook. The issue is the group’s dynamics – if they are action-focused, they have the opportunity to affect the change you’re talking about. If they’re not, they almost exclusively remain online conversations.
Thanks also for mentioning that you enjoy my posts. I’m really delighted to hear you enjoy what I write.
Matthew, you are a gifted speaker and definitely a thought provoking blogger, but can I ask you a tough question? Are you a REALTOR who volunteers, serves on committees, sought or served in an elected position on local, state or national levels? Are you giving back in ways other than speaking and writing, within our industry? And honestly, I’d have to say that doing those two things are actually great, but are you really getting into policy and raising the bar from the trenches, or from the sidelines, along with everyone else you are critiquing? If you are in the trenches, then I applaud you. If not… well…. I would love for you to be in my foxhole with me, and really get dirty. Otherwise aren’t you (and anyone else who doesn’t “put up”) guilty of the slacktivism ?
Wow, Lori, what a strange comment. I have always found immense value in outside perspective, no matter what industry. Better yet, I think what Matthew (and a few others) bring to the table is even more invaluable – it’s the role of a connected critic, someone who is close enough to the trenches, as you put it, but can still see it from the outside. I think far too many industry insiders cheat themselves or meaningful conversation and growth by gravitating to advice and content produced from within their insular world.
Inna, I value outside perspective too. And this conversation itself is quite valuable. I hope it motivates more to activism and not just talk. THAT is my point. And I think it is also somewhat Matthew’s point. But who is just doing the talking, and who is doing the acting here? And some of us do both. 🙂
Great info and mindset Matthew. So who is it that is going to start the RTB Action Group on Facebook. Someone has to take a leadership role for the desired outcome and success. Albeit, I am a newbie to the group, until someone or a group of participants in the RTB FB group raise their personal bar and make a commitment to results, the mode will continue to be nothing more than a discussion and venting space.
As most will agree, the later can become rather boring very quickly.
Hi Lori, of course you can always ask a tough question! In many ways, that’s what will really raise the bar. I love that it has sparked a conversation between us.
In response – I’m not a realtor (we are not members of NAR here in NYC, nor do we have an MLS), but I work for a brokerage and interact with hundreds of agents internally, and externally every day. I am absolutely in the trenches, across all levels of the conversation, nationally and locally. The syndication conversation has been of particular interest to me recently.
While I’m a real estate marketer (I build and run products that touch the customer), with an outside perspective on the conversations happening online, simply because I’m not an agent does not mean that there’s not a distanced level of objectivity raised by a conversation about how the web works when it comes to creating meaningful real-world change. You do not need to be an agent to have an opinion on what agents do. In fact, I’d argue that discounting an outside (or even peripheral, like mine) perspective isn’t healthy – otherwise we’d never have consultants or agencies. There’s absolutely room for all views, and I completely respect (and in many ways agree with) yours.
I’m not discounting the value of the conversation. But I just know that policy is mainly changed within the association. And we need people like you on the field. Not on the sidelines. That’s meant as a compliment, by the way.
Duly noted, thanks again Lori 🙂
If I might indulge myself a wee little bit…
Classic political activism hasn’t changed that much in decades, if not centuries. The process is akin to evangelizing.
First step is building rapport.
Second step is education and opinion formation.
Third step is to ask for a minor action.
Fourth step is to leverage that minor action to inform the person’s self-image as “someone who cares about X” or “someone who thinks Y”
Fifth step is to carefully nurture that seed into greater engagement and action.
For example, then, a political party might:
1. Have its committed people reach out to their social circles, just being generally pleasant, engaging in various social activities to build rapport with nonpartisans. It’s important that before you can convince anyone, you need to be likable.
2. Slowly and carefully inform the nonpartisan as to various issues, gauging response. If favorable, move into education. For example, one might make some sort of comment about government spending; if the recipient seems to agree with you generally, start educating and delivering information favorable to your cause. (“Did you know that we’re spending $1.5 trillion more than we take in? Can you imagine if your family were to do that? Why can’t the government live within its means?” and so on)
3. Ask the nonpartisan for a small action. For example, it might be, sign this petition. It could be “can I put you on a mailing list to get more information about government spending?” Something that takes very little effort, but does impact a person’s self-image.
4. Nurture that self-image. Now the nonpartisan, who has signed a petition against government spending, thinks of himself as someone who opposes government spending.
5. Slowly and carefully ramp things up. Maybe now it’s “Would you put this sign in your yard?” Maybe it’s “Come down to meet the candidate at a restaurant” Eventually, step by step, the self-image of the nonpartisan shifts from “I’m someone who cares about government spending” to “I’m someone who is willing to DO something about government spending” to “I’m an activist against government spending”
That is how you build a movement. I’ve done it several times myself. It takes time, energy, work, and strategy.
The criticism of slacktivism is that it never moves past the third phase. Asking someone to Like a page is that minor action. But unless you have a phase four and a phase five to slowly ramp up the involvement and to nurture the self-image, things die on the vine on Phase Three.
The key, then, is to have a concerted strategy for moving past the simple, easy, minor steps.
Wonderful response Rob. If anyone’s looking for a concrete action plan on how to implement some of the ideas contained in this post, your comment is a powerful place to start. Thanks so much for taking the time to share that, and I absolutely agree that moving past the ‘third phase’ is what’s being encouraged in my post (and ultimately needed).
So Matthew, how do you think agents feel about being “squashed” in the data foodchain when it comes to syndication/aggregation? Unless I missed something, NAR certainly was not thinking long term (nor had the agent population interest at heart) when certain agreements were made for MLS data dissemination/syndication and put a price tag on the use of the term “Realtor” . My membership states that only members have the right to use the trademark. I find it extremely interesting yet saddening that this disservice has taken place at the expense of the agent/broker population and has gone on for years now and nobody is willing to do anything about it. This continues to occur all while our NAR dues increase. I just wonder what “bar” NAR is raising when it come to this issue? If not for the agent masses, there would be no NAR.
Hi Scott, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
In many ways I am pro-syndication, so the notion of being squashed in the data chain might not be one i can accurately discuss here, as it’s not something I feel is happening, or see. I do feel that the recent online discussions have been absolutely fascinating though, and I weigh in a little on those over here: http://bit.ly/wZzE9s.
“Until such time as this moves beyond the slacktivism currently so prevalent within real estate groups online, and more into the realms of information, inspiration, and truly grasps the power to incite meaningful change, those conversations will never leave the groups that simply archive them.” – the same could be said of countless meetings I have attended in person from the local board, state association, national association, individual company, large multi-office, multi-manager company, large national franchisee levels.
The problem I see with online activism is convoluted in that the larger the group, the more attention it has the potential to attract but the less likely it is to reach any kind of consensus on specific solutions to specific problems. Opinions reign supreme.
Especially in the case of raising the bar in real estate, notice that it’s often difficult to keep the conversation on the original issue. It’s difficult if not impossible to take action to solve a problem until a large consensus agree on the target problem. I do believe however that conversations (and that is how I perceive groups like RTB on Facebook and other SM platforms) like this further the willingness of people to acknowledge issues and eventually will lead to real world change.
Many thanks Mark, the prevailing sentiment of group consensus is often the problem when it comes to online activism, with the group often deciding upon a poor route of action, in order to maintain the cohesion of the group. This, in part, is an important risk for some of the online real estate groups – the disagreement in many ways is a strength, and I believe, how to ultimately raise the bar, but it has, to Rob’s point, to be with subsequent and clearly defined real-world goals in mind.
Thanks for enjoying the post, I’m thrilled to hear it resonated well with you.
Hi Matthew. Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and thought-provoking composition. It surely required much research and labor on your part. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Just two weeks ago (in an RTB thread) Rob Hahn was encouraging the very actions you suggest are necessary for the group to move from being a space of “perpetual chatter” to actually causing “real world change”.
The premise of your article is powerful and timely. What I struggle with is the comparison of the actual “Raise the Bar” group that exists within Facebook and the similarities that it shares with the causes you reference here.
I am not sure that the RTB space exists as a “movement” in the way that KONY or SOPA does.
Although you have presented a compelling article which I mostly agree with and enjoyed reading – I am curious to what extent you understand the RTB group? You have over 40 links on further reading, but not one of them is an interview with Michael McClure or a link to a discussion thread from the group.
Michael has said “the goals of this group are admittedly modest: to raise awareness – among agents and among the public – and encourage professionalism in real estate.”
It may be a minor point of contention, but I am not sure the RTB group is an accurate point of reference here.
However, (after re-reading your article and taking some time to think about it) now that both you and Rob have solicited actionable results from the RTB group – perhaps it is time to organize on some of the tangible changes that have been discussed in that space. Perhaps your article is the nudge that was needed.
Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comment. I’ve followed the discussion over in the RTB group, and read your comments over there in particular, with some interest.
Many thanks for feeling the sense of timeliness in the post, my sense is that it’s an important one, not only for the web, but for the real estate industry’s use of online platforms, especially social – the post’s premise is to raise the question as to the effectiveness of such groups, at scale. This is an issue far beyond just our own industry, as the post explores, and more symptomatic of how people choose to organize online. Disturbingly, the cohesion of the group is often placed above the discussion of differing views, as we’ve seen in some of the recent conversations in the RTB group itself.
Let me answer some of your questions. Firstly, I’m intimately familiar with the RTB presence online. I’ve been a guest several times on RTB Radio, as well as having written for both Michael’s personal blog, and contributed video many times to the VPA site. I know Michael well, and consider him a good friend, and anyone who follows us both on Twitter will know we love to get into the meat of a discussion, and have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. I have been privileged to share the stage with Michael at the Connect conferences twice, as well as having contributed content to his keynote at RETSO last year. In short – we know each other very well. And while I’m not a member of the RTB online group, I follow the conversations very, very closely – I’m very interested in what goes on there, I’m just not a contributor to the discussion as it exists in that format – this is one of the reasons I chose not to include it as a source in my footnotes (as well as not needing to reference anything specific in favor of focusing on things outside of the group).
Importantly, this, however, is not about Michael and the sterling work he does. This is about something much bigger, and more important. The growing sense of contribution to Facebook groups, I feel, poses very real problems for those looking to enact change in the real world, and while (ironically), the goals of the RTB group might be ‘modest’, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the aims of improving the lives of the customer, in the real world, at scale across the industry. In many ways, I applaud and support the goals of the group, but think, given all of the other examples I quote, there are far more effective ways to create that offline shift, in ways that leverage activism beyond online groups, and the liking and commenting that goes on there. I am not suggesting they don’t have value, simply that their value is limited, and not offline-focused. I would certainly welcome more efforts to use Facebook groups to mobilize the lives of agents though, I simply question their long-term effectiveness in the real-world. I do believe it’s important to go beyond awareness though, and create real, long lasting change, offline.
If my post, as you suggest, provides some context and encouragement for how to do that, then I think that’s a win for everyone.
I wish I could LIKE both Greg’s comment and your response a couple of times. 🙂 And no, that won’t lead to activism, but still, I’d LIKE these a few times.
Thanks for addressing my questions Matthew. I better understand your article now.
I was aware of your kinship with Michael. It’s funny, I have always viewed the RTB group (and other groups) a certain way. What strikes me about your perception is that you see these groups as a starting point in producing real and measurable results. I think that says a lot.
The RTB group is full of talented agents, brokers, media types, technology vendors, and marketers. A very powerful team of change agents could be assembled from this group to lead a major offline movement.
(And it would have all started from a few likes and comments)