Dan Keldsen spoke at the Boston KM Forum this evening with the official topic of Emergence - Get with it or fade away. Basically, though, it was about social media and how you can bring your company, your idea or YOU to the attention of other people. (He will post his slides to SlideShare soon. Nudge, nudge.)
The discussion didn't have a straightforward flow because there are so many ways for a concept to emerge from all the other concepts floating about out there. Dan focused on the many examples out there of concepts that have gone viral or the services that enabled them to bloom. I recorded a long list of mechanisms one can employ to help make things bloom. All these assume online / networked services:
- Make it easy to "share this."
- Site badges or branding that people can use elsewhere and point back to your website.
- Points and reward systems to incent people to get more and compete with one another.
- Followers and friends to give people some idea who else is around and make connections with them.
- Widgets that build upon the baseline service (assuming it is technology that you want to grow).
- Tags to provide a means for people to label stuff for you, rather than coming up with your own.
- Free often spreads faster than for fee. But there are always things like iFart that grow anyway.
- Ways to share your stuff at other web-based services, such as the button at the bottom of my blog articles.
- Counts of hits, downloads, view, friends, points, etc. to give people an idea of how popular or interesting this is to other people.
- Open API to encourage developers to work in your environment and build even more interest.
When it all comes down to it, I think these tactics are all about ways to Find, Share and Compare.
One of the big elements that Dan touched upon is that while something can emerge accidentally (and those are the funniest examples online), the ones you want to bet money on had better have some strategy behind them. Use as many mechanism as make sense - don't rely on a single method to spread the word.
An interesting question came up around whether these ideas have been verified by academic research, rather than the mostly-anecdotal evidence presented during the meeting. The question was whether having an online social network was provenly beneficial, or if people just like doing it.
As Dan was talking about mechanisms for making things go "viral," I was reminded that a class taught by Mark Clare in the MSLOC program at Northwestern touched on these ideas too. The class was entitled Cognitive Design, but addressed some of the issues related to making things really click for people. From what I understood, he talked about the underlying connections that people make, rather than addressing the mechanics of making it happen. That said, one class was tasked with attempting to create a viral YouTube video. I only know of this one: Bad Mood Virus.