TED Conversations

Bob Dohse


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How might we use social networks to facilitate a short-term boycott on a company or product that creates positive community pressures?

How can we better use our social networks to create positive changes in our communities?

Is there a way to use short-term boycotts to signal to a company or government entity that our community is not happy with them?

Long-term boycott have a severe impact on a corporation's finances or a government's ability to provide services, but short-term boycotts allow for messaging without disabling a company or a government.

Might a "40 Hour Fast" be the tool that gets management's attention without destroying the entire organization?



Closing Statement from Bob Dohse

We generated a few thoughts to ponder, but I think perhaps the power of socially-networked protests remains in the hands of the traditional "community activists".

I know of 2 recent socially-networked protests, but they choose to remain anonymous and I'll respect that choice.

One used the power of video, linked to a social network, to effect change is the corporate decisions of a national residential (apartment) management company.

The other used social networking to implement the short-term boycott of a product. Their boycott drove the product's user activity to a historically low level ... an activity level that would be financially unsustainable for the company over time. The long-term effect upon company policy is still undetermined, but the group's boycott generated a 50% increase in group membership and the members are very pleased with the initial results.

The conclusion to this dialog, I think, is that there is more to come in this area as socially-networked activism further develops.

Thank you to the participants of this TED Conversation.

Warm regards.

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    May 10 2013: "How might we use social networks to facilitate a short-term boycott on a company or product that creates positive community pressures?"
    So... is it the short-term boycott that creates positive community pressure or... the company? I'm confused ;)
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      May 11 2013: Hi Anna,

      I suppose that the company does exert pressure upon a community by the manner in which the company conducts its affairs, but I was thinking in terms of an organized effort by community members to signal to a company their unhappiness.

      When nations impose a boycott, many experts would say that is a very low-level act of war. That's certainly debatable, but I can see how the potential destructiveness of a strong boycott could cripple a nation's ability to maintain government services to its citizens.

      From a similar perspective, a company could suffer severe financial loss from a strong boycott, and that would certainly affect the viability of the company.

      But I'm curious if a group of common citizens could effectively utilize a short boycott as a signaling mechanism ... to demonstrate to the company that the people aren't happy about something and COULD create a disruption, but that they choose to not damage the company's operation THIS TIME.

      In other works ... could a short-term boycott be used to affect company metrics (and, thus, get the company's attention) without harming the company's ongoing business operations.

      From that perspective, I think the answer to your question is that it would be the community's members, through their short-term boycott, who would be creating the positive pressure upon the company.

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