Photo by maniwa_pa on Flickr.com
Recently someone used the term critical mass to mean you need a certain amount of followers/friends/fans to be successful in social media. Strength is in numbers, etc. “Of course MoMA can do that, with its gazillion followers.” I dare to disagree.
In primary school they taught me to address specific people when asking for help in a crowded place. An undirected ‘help’ would certainly go unattended. Later I learned this is called the bystander effect. People don’t help when there’re other people around.
A hundred thousand, or even a millions followers/friends/fans is a lot of people. If you tweet a question or Facebook a funding request or e-mail a petition, certainly some small percentage will respond. And maybe a small percentage of many is enough to do the trick. On the other hand, many, many more will not feel any need to respond. Bystanders.
I believe that if you know your audience, are creative and dare to specifically address your questions, you don’t need a lot of followers/friends/fans. Over the last months, every single campaign I did where I specifically asked some outdid those where I generally asked many. Even if “specifically asking some” was semi-automated. Even if the ties between the addressed individual and our institution were weak.
So, how do you defy critical mass?
There’s a small museum I appreciate with people who’ve worked hard to be innovative and entrepreneurial. Now they’re about to lose all funding, because they don’t meet a threshold for external money coming in. Also, this museum has a small yet dedicated online following.
I’m sure that by going back through their twitter history, selecting all tweeps who’ve been to expositions, made a positive comment about the museum, asked a question that was answered, etc. and sending them a personalised direct reply with a link to a PayPal donation button, they should be able to bring in some money.
“@DearFollower In January you liked our exposition. Now we need you to continue making things you like. Info&donation http://etc.etc/etc”.
No room for bystanders there. And no need for critical mass.