Swarmwise Summary Part 3: Swarm Success


Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, wrote Swarmwise , an excellent book on how he used swarm tactics to launch a new political party and successfully win a major election.

*You can read the full text here:

Part 3: Swarm Success

Success doesn’t happen smoothly and fluidly. It happens in hard-to-predict enormous bursts. You have to grind along, sometimes for years.

Don’t confuse persistent day-to-day grinding with a refusal to see roadblocks for the uptake of the swarm’s ideas.

Everybody needs to listen for real blocks to adoption of the swarm’s ideas, all the time.

Above all maintain one value set, one value base - don’t subdivide and fight internally.

Keys To A Successful Swarm

  • Be better at understanding and using mass-scale social dynamics than your competitors.

  • Use both online and offline social friendships. Offline friendships are much, much stronger than online friendships and connections and offline discussions much stronger in terms of emotional attachment and intensity between people.

  • Understand that the swarm can only grow at its edges, where people who have joined the swarm know people who have not yet joined. There, and only there, are there social links that can be used to communicate the values, mission, and enthusiasm of the swarm to gain new recruits the people who are most active can’t recruit any new activists to the swarm themselves by talking to their friends.

  • The people leading a swarm cannot influence a single individual directly to join the swarm. Communicate heartbeat messages to the entire swarm, typically once a week. Overcommunicate the context of the news, the external news in particular

  • Sample rhetoric. Supply direct quotes that can initiate a conversation, or sample responses to typical questions.

  • Confidence. Enable them to use stickers or pins with the swarm’s symbols that in turn lead to conversations. If they’re not confident enough to initiate conversations, identifying with the swarm gets part of the way there.

  • Sense of urgency. A swarm grows by people talking to one another, one conversation at a time. These conversations are the key to the long-term success of the swarm.

Understand The Activation Ladder

The swarm can grow only on its edges. The activation ladder is equally important to understanding recruitment: the edges of the swarm are not sharp, but quite fuzzy, and it’s hard to define the moment when people decide to activate themselves in the swarm for the first time.

Is it when they hear about the swarm? When they visit its web pages? When they first contact a human being in the swarm? I would argue that all three of these are different steps on the activation ladder. Identify as many steps as possible on the activation ladder, and make each of these steps as easy and accessible as possible. Asking activists to describe each step that led them to join and activate would be a good start to discovering the activation ladder for a particular swarm. Mobilize activists.

Success for any swarm is its ability to mobilize activists; to activate its followers you shouldn’t do anything except contact the local leaders of the swarm and ask them to make something happen.

The next thing to realize is that these local leaders must have the tools to make that something happen.

  • Don’t compete on resources, swarms don’t have enough — swarms are unbeatable on speed, reaction time, and cost efficiency.

  • Control the public perception of who’s the winning team, and you become the winning team. Therefore, you need some kind of call-to-arms mechanism to quickly relocate your swarm’s activity to where people are looking at that exact moment.

  • Respect anonymity! The more information you require about your activists, the fewer activists you’ll have. If your opponents are rich in resources, they control a large enough part of society to be able to cause trouble in society for their opponents — their named opponents. You don’t need to know who your activists are. You just need them to talk about the swarm’s issues with their friends, show up at rallies, etc. Many will prefer to be anonymous, and honoring that will make the swarm immensely stronger.

Rewarding The Long Tail

The important thing is to get your swarm discussed and mentioned. When you give up the illusory control of your brand — which you never had anyway — and reward people for discussing you, unconditional of the context, they will keep discussing you and your topics, services, or products. That is exactly what you want to happen. So reward the long tail with attention — that can tip an entire blogosphere toward discussing you, with the exception of the star bloggers, but they’re the few and the long tail are the many.

Using Attention To Build A Community

Reward people for their interest in your swarm, and show them attention. It works wonders. Attention is reward. Unexpected attention is great reward. Engage with people who read what you write.

In many ways, success can be harder to handle than failure, because it sets expectations most people have never felt. The danger lies in not realizing that people will regard everything you say as having much more weight than you place on it yourself at the time you say it. If your swarm is political, anything you do — or don’t do — will be interpreted as a political statement,

Be nice to all people, even to your adversaries.

Doing so will not just benefit the culture of the swarm, where you lead by example and show people that being excellent to each other is the way to behave, but it will also catch your adversaries completely off guard. This is a good thing.

If you can’t convince them, confuse them.

The Day After Success

No time is as tough as the year after that year when you were the hottest thing in town. This applies to every swarm as well. When we’ve been on a slowly upward trajectory for a couple of years, we tend to believe that any dings — any level-ups — are permanent ascensions to a new base level of popularity, acceptance, and visibility. keep the swarm on track, and do remind them of that saying in the entertainment business: no time is as tough as the year after the year you’re hot — and that year will come around, as certainly as the calendar tells you it will.

Have fun!