Social “swarming” is when a disparate group suddenly moves en masse in the same direction. The rapid, collective motion of a large number of self-propelled people has enormous power.
The social swarming was fast and intense when the pre-eminent breast cancer advocacy group, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, announced it was stopping its financing of Planned Parenthood. The reaction was a swarm of unbridled fury fueled by Facebook and Twitter. Over three days, there were more than 1.3 million tweets mentioning Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and related terms and hashtags.
Unlike what sometimes happens in the C-suite—paradigm paralysis—the leaders in the Komen foundation quickly got the message and reversed their decision. The Komen brand lost a little luster, but it will be regained because they responded rapidly and unambiguously.
Social Swarming is like the behavior of flocking birds and schooling fish and it is turbocharged by social media. It is an emergent behavior with no central coordination. It appears to be the result of three unconscious patterns: 1. Intuitively and fluidly moving in the same direction; 2. Staying close together, but avoiding collisions; 3. Rising above the surrounding circumstances.
The lesson for leaders on the receiving end of a positive or a negative swarm is same: think strategically about the implications and respond quickly. Smart decisions followed by rapid actions win in the New Normal.