Tod Maffin and the Sting of the Webswarm

Blogging broadcaster Tod Maffin talked to a group of about 100 IABC Toronto members about the power of social media to shape and break reputations.

Webswarming is when masses of people congregate in the same place on the Internet. Swarms are led from the inside – like a swarm of bees. Corporate communications is very often out of sync with this way of thinking. Instead corporate communicators more often try to direct from the front, hoping that people will fall into formation behind them. With social media, we can position ourselves inside swarms to take advantage of many-to-many communications.

When a critical Webswarm forms around your company, you can respond with a simple five step S-W-A-R-M strategy:

  1. Sweeten the honeypot. Match your tone to the swarm. Be self-deprecating. Use humour. Be humble.
  2. Win-win.  Let them feel like they’ve “won”in some way.
  3. Advise them how you’ve changed. And do it within the first few sentences.
  4. Right wrongs: Correct inaccuracies. Don’t let errors stand in Google’s cache forever.
  5. Make friends. Email specific compatants and invite them to continue to provide suggestions, perhaps through an advisory panel.

If you want to be effective in the swarm, you must have an active and respected member within the swarm if you expect to communicate within it and learn from it.

Above all, put a human face on your postings and comments. Step out from behind corporate speak and be genuine.

  • Joe, thanks for the look at Tod’s wonderful presentation to IABC Toronto. You’ve captured his message with clarity and precision. In fact, my posting on the event essentially says, ‘Go read Joe’s post.’

  • Thanks Gary. After Steve Crescenzo’s rant against Liveblogging, it’s good to know that people still find it useful.

  • It’s probably because you were sitting at the back of the room. Steve’s aggravation seems to stem partly from the bloggers in the front row doing it in his face.

  • According to Google, my image just became #1 in the world when doing an image search for Tod Maffin.
    And I’m just one bee!

  • I think Tod is out of his depth here, as he is in pretty much anything except radio production and blogging. And there’s room for improvement in those areas too.
    Did Tod point to real examples of where his off-the-top-of-his-head suggestions actually helped a business deal with criticism?
    Did he mention the time he called for a boycott of a local restaurant simply because he had been yelled at?
    Did he mention that often the best approach is to ignore the criticism?
    Did he explain his own approach when he faces bloggers and comments that don’t agree or find his “reporting” entirely accurate?

    His personal blog is strewn with animosity and complaints, and plenty of “aren’t I cute?”
    His CBC blog is trimmed and censored to hide any criticism of himself, while many of his reports are personalized to let readers get to know the “real” Tod.

    The bottom line is that Tod Maffin is an excellent study of how to manipulate what is published on the internet and the pretensions of an individual who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
    And he even claims to be a “futurist”, while being unable to tell you what’s ahead in any way.

    Despite all of it, I like Tod. He’s a nerd and he’s trying to get through life like the rest of us.
    He enjoys a comfortable lifestyle, better than most single men. He’s fulfilled his childhood dream of being on the radio. Even if it’s only in 15 minute bits once a week.
    But even this is not enough for Tod. He wants to rule the world, and sees himself as qualified to do so.

    I’ve made a point of showing Tod that the world of the internet is not as easily controlled as he pretends and claims, because people are not as easily controlled as he claims. Some people actually think for themselves, and questions what’s being fed them by the media. And Tod has made quite the effort to be seen as part of that media, as if “media” were synonymous with “authority”.
    He even bills himself as “an international authority”.
    Just a bit.

    Now, it’s fair to ask what would motivate someone to put so much time and energy in going after Tod and his pronouncements.
    He tried to take away my right to free expression, without any legal foundation for doing so.
    Naturally, I reacted.
    I reacted by beginning and devoting an entire blog to the professional Tod Maffin. I showed him that the internet is not his to pepper with flattery about himself and erasing inconvenient truths and disagreements about his claims.
    I’ve shown him that there’s more to the internet than manipulating what pages come up first in a Google search – you can see his efforts for yourself.
    I’m just one person (who’s not impressed with exaggerated claims) and not a swarm. I don’t have the resources that Tod has or the familiarity with web code and server controls.
    I just write, and try to have fun in the process.
    I get irritated when someone claims that they have no fear of giant corporations and dares them to sue, insisting that they will never “erase history”, then proceeds to do just that.
    I don’t like bullies. I don’t like arrogance that steps on other people’s rights.

    I can’t stop Tod from being Tod, and nor do I want to.
    All I can do is remind him that his is not always the only nor bestest opinion. That he is not untouchable. That he still has much to learn about life, media, the internet. That he might want to re-consider his goal of being able to control everyone in the world with his adolescent version of public relations, since at least one blog exists that proves his powers are less than what he pretends.
    That just one individual can have an impact, without any help from techies or by exploiting the good name of their employer to further a personal and financial agenda.
    And can conduct this protest within the confines of the few freedoms accorded each citizen in a democratic society.

    The impact of my blog is insignificantly significant. It is read and seen not only by Tod Maffin, but also a very few others who are familiar with the persona that Tod cultivates.
    It’s impact comes not necessarily from what is said on that blog, but simply from the fact that it exists – out there amidst the vast data repository of the network we give more life to every day. It is far more than just a collection of newspapers. It is a larger and larger mirror of society, and far above political agendas.
    And who can tell for how long each contribution we make to the mix will exist?
    My hope is that all of it it will live forever. Despite those who want to erase fair comment. (George Orwell didn’t underestimate either society or humanity).

    Ok. There’s a whole bunch of words from me at no charge, to make your page here just a little bit richer. I wrote because I noticed you didn’t omit my earlier comment, and that indicates to me maturity and courage and fairness. And the most important one to me – trust.
    Isn’t it ironic that the people who “blog”, availing themselves of the opportunity for free expression, are often the people who try to deny others that same freedom in their comments section?
    Perhaps ironic is too kind a word.

    Have a great new year, Joseph Thornley.
    Any relation to that rock band? Big something or other?
    Ignore that.
    Carry on with your partnership with Tod. You’ll both be fine in spite of my presence.
    And in your case, that people are able to read this epic of a comment may just prove that you’re the better man.

  • Someone took the the time recently to remind me that
    “I always try to make my points without attacking an individual’s character or ridiculing them. I think that smart people can accomplish their ends without causing hurt.”
    Which is why it was somewhat re-assuring when Tod Maffin wrote to me personally saying how much he enjoys my blog about him, and that it has actually enhanced his professional reputation.
    Wonders never cease.
    In one fell swoop, he was able to use the S, W and M of the “S-W-A-R-M strategy”.