Thursday, 5 September 2013

Facebook posts - sheep mentality

I thought I'd write up some thoughts on a police Facebook page post appealing for help to locate a missing person.

Police missing person

The missing person post started life with a photo and an appeal to let the police know that the girl is safe and/or where she is. There are many posts like this but the thing that caught my eye was the development of a sharing trend I'd not seen before.

Comment 1 - There's a poster to share on MissingHelpFindUs
Comment 2 - Shared
Comment 3 - Shared
Comment 4 - Shared
Comment 5 - Shared

It carries on like this until the first person who commented like this:

Comment 13 - Shared Dagenham

From this point onwards, almost all the 186 comments followed this pattern. In the end I plotted this pattern on a map and it is amazing how accurately the sharing activity matches our original appeal (which didn't ask people to share the post).

Facebook share locations on a map
It appears that once a pattern of comments emerged, people were inclined to join in. This activity has driven 134,400 people to see the post so far and the regularly added new shares seems to have kept momentum flowing. The police helped encourage this activity and acknowledge the shares by 'liking' each of them. It also seems to have focused attention on one single aspect of the post rather than the tendency to stray off topic. The first few comments could so easily have been a derogatory observations about the girl or her circumstances which could have kick-started a similar trail of comments but on a completely different theme.

Learning from this could be interesting. Starting off on the right foot is really important so could the police influence it rather than leaving it to chance?

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