The (Lack of) Wisdom of Crowds

For the sake of this post, let us get all the jargon out of the way:

1. Crowdsourcing
2. Community-based thinking/”ideation” (ugh)
3. Groupthink

I think that’s most of them.

As communicators, we are facing a very interesting time in our career. Since 2002 (rise of the blogosphere)  the face of advertising, marketing and public relations has been slapped repeatedly with change, conflict, pushback and notably, with social and new media. With perfect competition in the industry (meaning that all or most audiences involved are privy to the same information) the only room we have between audiences is differentiation (economically speaking, of course).

But none of that is news to you seasoned professionals, so let me get to the point. Organizations now are opting in to more of a pull strategy, they put a few goods or services out there and let demand take its course. Not a bad thing.  What I am concerned about is the growing dependence on the opinions of crowds. Here are my three reasons.

1. Crowds Will Not ALWAYS Pick the Best Product for Them
Do not get me wrong, the individual is smart. The individual can decipher their own wants and needs and choose amongst a small selection what will work for them. But a crowd? Not so much. Crowds are the reason we get certain politicians in business. Crowds are the reason certain products are not and refused to be made. Crowds are the reason Kia is still in business. Crowds are the reason Tesla Motors haven’t taken off yet. It is human nature for people to swallow their own best interest and give in to a crowd’s command. Let us not forget that. If we want to be communicators, and in that business we vow to communicate what products will benefit them, then work on dividing the crowd, not uniting it.

2. The Product Chosen Might Not Be the Best Product for You
This is from a pure business standpoint. Internally, the product or service the crowd wants may have the potential to be significantly damaging to your fiscal structure. What do you do? If the crowd is in control of the message and information, then you are going to brace for disaster or find a way to be profitable. If you are in control of the message, you can change the conversation.

3. An Organization Should Never Lose Control of the Conversation
As a self-proclaimed gen Y’er, millennial, yadda yadda, I believe whole-heartedly in two-way communication. I do believe that we need to take a step back and better society and ourselves. And I also believe that we can do both at the same time.  So let’s take a step back from this situation. There will be times when an organization will lose control of a message. In this day and age it is inevitable. But the organization should never lose control of the conversation.

Like any argument, each party will make a solid point from time to time. But the party who wins the argument kept control.



One thought on “The (Lack of) Wisdom of Crowds

  1. Pingback: Did Crowdsourcing Kill the Creative Stars? « New Age Marketing

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