It was late one night when I sat in front of my computer and swallowed a bitter pill.
Luckily it was the red one.
My mind was flung out of the rabbit hole into a new state of perception.
I realized I had been a bad shepherd.
I had been racking my brain as to why our design crowdsourcing site Springleap.com was constantly being inundated by mails of people asking far too many questions on where the community were supposed to be doing what.
I thought: “Was the crowd stupid? Of course shoutbacks meant that you should be talking back to us there…”
… and the penny dropped.
Parts of the site were totally unclear on what we wanted them to do, where to go or how to do it.
In a spur of intense anxiousness I opened up a site named after a fruit that led man to his “original sin” and everywhere I looked I saw a clean message. I had direction. It was intuitive. There were no “cool” and confusing terms – it was straight shooting.
On that fateful night some 2 years ago, the doors of perception opened up to me revealing the ability to see how an unclear message send the flock into disarray. They become confused, insecure and run away.
I realized that the crowd wasn’t at fault. It was the shepherd. A good shepherd is a crowd-whisperer. He thinks not of what he wants the crowd to do but rather help them do what they want to do to achieve his goals and constantly keeps his hear to the ground to sense the direction they are turning to. How does he do this? By knowing the crowd so well and being so in touch with them to the point that they cannot tell what is more in theirs or the shepherd’s best interests. They are one. That is to say : just because a body has a head which tells it where to go, it doesn’t make the head more important than the body. They are totally co-reliant even though their needs and function may seem different at outward glance.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD always chooses and outlines the path that is clear and true.
Often when people talk about a “stupid mass/ crowd” you will find the following factors at the heart of the issue:
1. Unclear messages that are either too verbose or use too many alienating “cool terms”. The internet is a place where you have fleeting moments to capture a browser’s attention and convert them into a consumer of your product.
2. Lack of consistency in language and identity. It’s absolutely schizophrenic and send people scattering and scrambling to calmer and finer pastures
3. The wrong crowd has been attracted to fulfill the wrong task.
4. Lack of communication/ slow communication. The Internet moves at a blazing pace – so does the attention and patience of the users. Take your time and you will find that your fine flock has fled.
5. Making them take the long treacherous path that has them jumping through hurdles. Reduce the clicks to get from point A to point B. The less the user has to do to fulfill the task the more successful you will be at getting them to do other tasks. Ease of use is critical to the stickiness of the user which leads to greater periods of rewarding activity.
6. LESS CHOICE! – (Funny one that, right?) You would think that lots of choice=lots of stuff to do. WRONG. The right set of choices at the right time for the right person is what you need.
Imagine you go into a room you have never been to and someone says: Hey try this Cola. That’s easy.. and maybe you like the Cola… so you hang around and then we say – right so you like the Cola – try one of these two flavors. That’s an attitude that works. What DOESN’T work is this : you come into a this new room – you are a little skeptic and unsure… next thing you know you are being offered 12 offers of iced teas, 10 different Colas and your choice of 8 sizes. IT’S SCARY. IT SENDS PEOPLE RUNNING FOR THE HILLS. Rather be good at a few simple things and keep them coming back for the thrills.
7. Now this is probably one of the most important points: every crowd needs a good charismatic shepherd. One who is transparent, communicative and clear. One who has walked the path they are now on and instills a sense of confidence in direction, sure-footed steps and yet not tyrannical or full of showmanship.The good shepherd knows that the good of the crowd comes first as long as it is aligned with the business’s focus or becomes it’s pivot.
Blaming the crowd and talking of stupid masses is really about the environment YOU have set up, the people YOU attracted, the path YOU have led them on and the choices YOU made.
Yes it’s a bitter pill to swallow, by the victory of changing your ways can make the victory all that much sweeter.
Become a good shepherd and your reward will be the wisdom of the crowds.