Crowdsourcing a hot topic is an interesting social media phenomenon. Sometimes it starts accidentally when an injustice is exposed or a good deed is done. Other times, it is started intentionally to garner support for a cause or operate as a focus group for an idea or product.
Whether accidental or intentional, there is no better platform to crowdsource influence than Twitter. The real-time platform, which is used by only 18 percent of the online population (according to Pew Internet’s latest stats), is an accelerant when it comes to spreading news. What starts on Twitter quickly spreads to other platforms including traditional media like television and radio. It’s ability to break and spread news leads some to believe that the small numbers on Twitter really represent a catalyst of online influencers, something we really have no reliable data on to date.
We’ve seen causes and opinions of all types spread quickly on Twitter, but two caught my attention this week. The first was the proposed rules change in college football, stating that offenses must wait ten seconds after the forty-second play clock starts to begin play. The proposal was championed by two high profile coaches whose teams rank extremely low in snaps per game. The coaches were accused of using injury rates to cover up an attempt to slow down their faster opponents. Head Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez and Texas A & M coach Kevin Sumlin,who already have large personal followings on Twitter, made their opinions known. Sumlin did some crowdsourcing of his own retweeting high profile coaches and sports figures with large followings and calling in to the popular SVP and Russillo radio show on ESPN to tap the audience influence. Friday morning produced a large number of online articles including one from USA Today titled, “Fear is the only thing driving a proposed NCAA football rule change.”
The second crowdsourcing topic that caught my eye swirls around the high cost of college textbooks. An ongoing saga, students have long been protesting the cost of textbooks and calling for an alternative to buying traditional books, many of which will never be used after the class. Students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee decided to take their frustrations to Twitter and started a crowdsourced conversation that spread to students at multiple campuses tweeting pictures of themselves holding up signs showing how much they spent on textbooks this semester. Posts are using the hashtag #textbookbroke.
This Business Insider piece shows some of the more creative pictures from the hashtag. The original source of this latest movement began in January on the Illinois State University campus where digital textbook startup Packback organized a student protest that has since spread across the country as schools begin their winter semesters. The recent edition is making an appearance on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as well as Twitter.
Crowdsourcing on social media can be an accelerant and a life-extender when it comes to gathering momentum for a cause. One thing is certain--even though Twitter only occupies the attention of 18 percent of online users, its power to spread a message may be much more important than its numbers.