Community Organizing

I heard plans from a management company to start a joint venture with a publicity firm that will “run” the online presences of their clients. They were going to be “community managers”. It’s going to fail, horribly. Why? Because community organizing doesn’t scale. It can’t be faked.

But say for a minute that you were a manager that this whole internet thing just happened to, what would you do?

You’d probably set up a Myspace profile, a Facebook fan page and grab some domain like You’d make them all exactly the same, pay a designer way more than necessary and fill it with crappy flash animation. Then these people would come pitch their company to you and you’d said yes because you have no sense of brand or integrity. Hey, you’ve been hearing the word “widget” a lot so you’d score on of those too. Lastly, you’d totally ignore all Social side of social networking by keeping the artist away from their own tools and leave 100% of all comments, emails and remixes totally unanswered. It would all be worth about nothing.

So, fortunately, you’re not one of those people and you should pretty much do the opposite of that. Don’t set up a blog and pretend that you have 5,000 readers who hang on your every word. Don’t make a twitter account that you use solely to spam people with. Work in the communities that you care about. If the email you receive is a function of how much you send, then you should probably start sending some unsolicited emails. You should skip Linkedin entirely because nobody gives a shit.

When Alinsky wrote about social change, he said it required a community organizer who knew the terrain better than a good general. He didn’t say to hire a corporate shill to come in and do it for you. He said it needed someone passionately knew the intricacies of the cause, someone to knew enough about weakness and strength to use jujitsu against more powerful organizations.

The reason community organizing is hard to scale is that a publicist is never as passionate about you as you are. Their incentives are all aligned to the low-hanging fruit. That leaves the task up to you. I’m the perfect organizer for my cause (me). Unless you’re a trainwreck, it’s the same for you. In the end, creating a new media presence is about doing the stuff that you like, not what you’re supposed to like.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.