A Time to Scream


Soap Box
After reading Seth Godin’s blog post “Willfully ignorant vs. aggressively skeptical” on screaming and being the most informed, I thought I should share my thoughts on using screaming for social causes online.

Many people know that I’ve been screaming in support of healthcare reform and many have joined in. But screaming doesn’t always work. There has to be genuine urgency aimed at one’s trust network and one’s intent must be clear. Without those elements, the screaming and the message will be ignored, perceived as an annoyance, or worse.

Sense of Urgency
For screaming to be effective, there has to be a true sense of urgency based on an emergency (Amber alert, natural disaster, loss of life), time based situation (live event/speech), or information alert (such as a hot news event). At this point, having a decent (but not necessarily the best) understanding of the situation is necessary. If money is involved (as in an urgent fundraising situation) then the more information one has, the better.

Trust Network
If you need to scream to get your message out, scream at your trust network first. If you yell outside of your trust network, it just looks like yelling for yelling’s sake and people will often shut you out, regardless of the message. This is where trust comes in. If people don’t trust you, they won’t even listen, let alone pass on the information or line up with you to scream.

On Twitter, the folks who follow me are my trust network. That certainly doesn’t mean they agree with everything I say or with every position. But it does mean that we rely on each other for true bits of information, which can go a very long way to building trust over time. Over time and with enough fire line situations, these folks become friends and part of what Godin would call a “tribe.” You can find my tribe at http://www.tweet4eric.com. Please ask me about it.

To have your message heard, your intent must be clear. If people in your trust network see that you have a genuine concern for a cause, then they will lend an ear and maybe even act. If you appear to have a different or unclear agenda, then people will ignore you or maybe even go as far as to call you out on it. For example, if, let’s say, an insurance agent was pushing people to his business blog for more information on squashing healthcare reform, I’d be very skeptical and would certainly question his intentions.

Other Factors
There are many other factors that influence whether screaming for a social cause works (is received, listened to, and acted upon). Is it a political message, what is the timing for the receiver, and what is the “social cost” for repeating information or joining in the yelling?

Online sites like Twitter and Facebook can be used for many purposes, ranging from sheer entertainment to changing the world. If you have a message to get out for a cause, screaming can work to get people’s attention but this should be done sparingly and only when it comes from the heart.