Bob Dohse


This conversation is closed.

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: I believe we can make those in charge aware whether it destroys the organization depends on if they care and if they listen.
    That said, the desire to make change re-charges alliances, incorporated those who would never lead and gives those who are quiet a much louder voice.
    Arab Spring was changed because of social media. Without considering the outcome as positive or negative, change will happen.
    One voice, one vote energy.
    Great question!
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      May 10 2013: Good point Kathleen ... that the organization's response is what makes or breaks their future potential.

      Thanks for adding that insight.
  • May 10 2013: I would think it depends on 2 things: 0) the number of users on the site and 1) the 80/20 rule (a.k.a. Pareto principle).

    On Facebook, with millions of users, as far as Facebook is concerned - you'd have to organize a REALLY large boycott to be noticed.

    On a smaller site with thousands of users, if you (and your fellow protesters) are a part of the 20% responsible for 80% of the interactions, then yeah... you might be noticed.
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      May 10 2013: So ... Terrill ... if a smaller site had 100 active users, only 20% (20 users) could effectively make a big difference.

      • May 10 2013: Bob: my last name is Bennett, not Pareto. I'm going out on a limb, and say "Yes" - IF you (and your cohorts) are a part of the 20% who make-up the 80% of the sites activity (e.g. articles written, comments made, etc).

        If you and your cohorts are part of the 80% who don't make-up the lions share of the sites activity, then you probably won't be noticed.
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          May 10 2013: Thanks for clarifying, Mr. Bennett. ;-)
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    May 12 2013: Before it was social media - it was mass media. Spreading the word. As we globalize, the ability to spread the word has eased, the desire to reach out and touch someone has increased and both anonymous and signed declarations for and against ideas and entities has shifted.
    Angie's List is an example of how to boycott or endorse an entity without touching it.
    The combined efforts, can reach the heart and soul of companies who listen. Those who don't may crash and burn.
    The downside of group participation, as with Angies List, is you have no proof that what people are complaining about is true - or not. The consumer can use it to improve a company or just to eliminate the competition. The anonymity of social media has given us abilities that out distance responsibility.
    Veiled threats and the inability of being held responsible for slander I think often cause companies to not react to the use of these options.
    A good impact can be offset by lasting messages that were fixed but never erased.
    As people, we love to complain, but going back and saying great - they fixed it - that is much harder to remember.
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      May 12 2013: Kathleen ... you made a good comment on the idea of "proof".

      So, to improve the ability to communicate "truth", I suppose that a means of providing accredited data would consequently improve the ability to spread influence by increasing the credibility of the communicator of the "facts".

      Is that an accurate conclusion?
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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.
  • May 10 2013: Investor and consumer activism are methods people haven't thought of or tried yet.
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      May 10 2013: Thanks for adding that comment, Solidus.

      I took it as a challenge and I'll try to find an opportunity to try it as soon as possible. ;-)
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    May 10 2013: The "RELATED TALKS" link (Nicholas Christakis: The hidden influence of social networks) is a good primer on the power of social network connections.

    Nick speaks about the power of social networks upon US, but the reverse is also true ... WE exert subtle influence upon others.

    Can we harness our subtle influence to send a message and make a point ... WE WANT SOMETHING TO CHANGE?

    Can we use short boycotts for positive change in our communities?