`Mass mobilization through social media has high risk of failure`

The strategy of using social media for coordinating people in critical situations has high risk of failure, a study has said.

Updated: Apr 09, 2013, 12:40 PM IST

Washington: Social networks have served to mobilize volunteers during natural disasters, political campaigns, health emergencies, etc, but the strategy of using such sites for coordinating people in critical situations has high risk of failure, a study has said.

Using recent results of the spacio-temporal structure of social networks and experimental data the researchers have demonstrated that social networks can be a very useful tool for coordinating in emergency, but have found that the risk of failure for this strategy is high.

The researchers used as a setting results gathered from an experiment carried out in 2009 by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in the US.

The objective was to evaluate the efficiency of social networks in human mobilizations where time was a critical factor. A contest was set up with a prize of 40,000 dollars inviting participants to find ten weather balloons randomly located across the United States, within the least amount of time possible.

The winning team from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was able to locate them in the span of nine hours.

The conclusion reached is that weather balloons could have been exclusively located through social networks, without the help of conventional communication (radio, television, newspapers), although with certain limits.

"Our results indicate that social mobilization of this type would be successful under certain optimal conditions", the study indicated.

One of the critical factors for success then, is that the users who participate in the mobilization not only have many social links, but also are effective when it comes to circulating information quickly, for example.