(Source: vapour trail on Flickr)
What is a web swarm? As I understood it, it’s basically when a bunch of people congregate in one spot on the web to basically trash a given target, be it a politician, a company, a brand, an individual or whatever. (Here’s some examples.) Common swarm spots include social news sites like Digg or Reddit, social networks like Facebook, YouTube, and in the blogosphere or on forums – anywhere that people can contribute comments, links or other content.
(It’s basically similar to the concept of the “blog storm,” but expanded to include all the other places on the participatory web that are not commonly understood as being part of the blogosphere.)
Tod provided a handy methodology for crafting response posts when dealing with a web swarm.
S- Sweeten the Honey Pot.
Use a friendly tone with no jargon. “Thanks for pointing out our goof—we’re not perfect, but we’re trying.”
Make them feel like they have the upper hand. “You were right to feel irritated.”
A- Advise Them What You’ve Changed.
Do this within the first few sentences. “Thanks to your posting, we’re changing our policy.”
Correct online inaccuracies. Don’t let errors stand on the internet forever. Several popular web sites (including one run by Google) take snapshots of online content and store them in a searchable cache—forever.
E-mail some of the individual contributors and invite them to keep in contact. “I hope you’ll continue to share your insights with me.”
This is a convenient checklist for how to actually go into the swarm and hopefully calm the waters.
But he said something else that I found interesting about operating in this environment. Basically that most of the time you should comment only once. So if for instance, there’s a swarm happening on Digg, you should only drop a single comment in the thread. And then you are out.
Not sure I completely agree here. I do understand that there’s a need to avoid being drawn into a tit-for-tat debate on details. And that a decent, timely response will get amplified as some posters in the swarm start to take your part. But I don’t think that a single comment dropped in a lively thread will satisfy the more aggressive participants – it could even give them more ammunition to keep up the pressure.
Maybe it’s because I work for The Man, a very large and very easy target that basically doesn’t “get it.” But I could imagine that continued silence after the initial comment may also do more harm then good. It’ll make that human, conciliatory post you made look insincere, incomplete. Again government not listening.
I guess I’m wondering that to be really successful in dealing with the swarm, a bit more of a sustained presence will be necessary?