Dec
14
2010

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Have you seen the latest big Youtube holiday flash mob video? On November 13th, shoppers in Ontario got quite a surprise in a mall food court with a Christmas Flash Mob. The Youtube video already has close to 8 million views online! It's the first video listed below.

As Josh explained his post about flash mobs, these seemingly spontaneous public performances are often coordinated via social media. Back in September, Oprah's staff coordinated a flash mob of more than 20,000 people to surprise the queen of talk show for her show's season premiere and recruited the participants via Facebook. Once again, this made me think back to the Malcolm Gladwell article in the New Yorker, Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted, where he suggested that activism on social networks aren't able to drive people to take real life action, like the impactful sit-ins of the civil rights movements. This, he argues is due to "weak ties" between the relationships that exist on social networks. I wrote a post, after that article was published, which included an infographic showing the window for a tweet to get noticed and any action taken on it to be very small, and questioned whether this was evidence to support Gladwell's case.

But, aren't flash mobs the perfect example of just how social media and social networks can drive masses of people to take physical action?

Although flash mob examples don't usually have an activism or cause-related component, it shows that it is possible to use online tools to drive off-line action. And not just any type of off-line action, but one that requires commitment over an extended period of time, since most flash mobs typically involve detailed choreography and coordination. So it seems the challenge is, what can those in the nonprofit world do to creatively leverage those compelling aspects of what makes flash mobs successful ... but for good?

There are other examples out there that currently exemplify social media and social networks driving firm results. Here are a couple that participants from a panel discussion at the 2010 Just Means Social Media, Technology & Change Conference discussed:

Although activism may not look the same, it's no question from these examples that social media and social networks can be used to motivate the masses into action, whether it be physical or monetary. Next step: How can both be achieved? I can't wait to see the example, as I'm sure some great and smart organizations and individuals will be able to pull it off soon.

And, just for fun and because I'm in the holiday spirit, check out these holiday flash mob videos that I found online!

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