Leveraging off participatory culture: why you should always say YES.

Participation. Where would collective intelligence be without it? How would transmedia storytelling exist without members of the digerati extending the story?

Leveraging off the strong participatory culture within the industry I work for continues to prevail as an open book for idea sourcing, understanding the demands of our market, predicting trends, and strategizing future products.

I represent a fitness model and nutritionist whose success hugely relies on her personality as much as it does her products. The followers may not be pro-ams, but the devotees and skilled amateurs come in armies.  Like my lecturer Jeff said,  ‘The quality can be raw, but the access to information is amazing’. The amount of information coming from all different directions is exposed yet crowded like an open-air cinema. I do need to filter out the complaints however, and sort through the inaccurate information, but there’s a plethora of hidden gems among the comments, questions and emails we receive on the daily.

We launched a health and fitness program early March which has literally created an online community of thousands. The participatory culture ranges from the classic devotee that shares, likes and comments, to skilled amateurs who extend it further through networking and writing. When we noticed an uprising of positive reviews from followers of the program, we played on the power of collaborative intelligence and began enlisting these skilled amateurs as ‘ambassadors’ of the brand. Ambassadors who created their own unique content and shared their opinions via social media would be recognised by us, and their stories would be shared across our multiple social media channels. As their popularity grew, so did ours, and thus a mutually beneficial exchange happened.


This is but one approach we take in order to make the most of a still-growing participatory culture. Not only do our Ambassadors receive recognition, their digital footprint deepens, as does their assertiveness and reputation within the community.

Collaborative intelligence, according to CMSWire, requires ten components:

1. Willingness to Collaborate
2. Willingness to Share
3. Knowing How to Share
4. Knowing What to Share
5. How to Build Trust
6. Understanding Team Dynamics
7. Hubs, Bridging and Networking

The Social Network Analysis:
The ‘hubs’ represent someone everybody speaks to.

‘The larger spots represent hubs in the network, the bigger the spot, the more connections it has’. (Coleman, 2011).

8. Mentoring and Coaching
9. Open to New Ideas
10. Tools and Technology

The most recent fitness program THE BOD, is a product of countless reviews authored by disheartened athletes that couldn’t wrap their head around a ‘one-size-fits-all’ program. This complaint popped up time and time again, which led to a light bulb moment. A program more catered to individuals’ specific needs, was needed. Using groups of feedback scouted from online blogs, we were able to pinpoint what our consumer wanted from us.

We sell cookbooks and fitness and nutrition programs. But the purchase doesn’t start in the cart and end in the confirmation email. Sophie Guidolin’s (my boss) success relies on the loyal consumer and avid follower. We base a great deal on relationship marketing. Relationship marketing is a crucial ingredient that keeps the participatory culture clogs running. Akin to the die-hard enthusiasts who create user-generated content, the dialogue between our brand and our followers needs to go both ways. The community feel needs to constantly be enhanced, so the culture stays strong and intact.

Gill asserts that cooperation is a reflection of collaboration. He specifies that key tasks where contributors play the same role; keeping an online community running smoothly, is similar to rowing a boat (Gill, 2011). Collaboration comes into play when the contributors also take on new roles; blogging, networking, commentating and writing.

Our collective intelligence pool is overflowing, but I believe the next step forward is to create a highly engaged collaborative intelligence.

We are yet to take this next step, but there is huge potential in working with our consumers. There is also potential in crowd sourcing ideas for a future product. An article by Kreutz from We Thinq illustrates how successful projects determined by the crowds can be. The Cairo Transport App Challenge is just one example taken from the article where Cairo citizens were asked to submit app ideas that would resolve traffic and congestion issues in the city. The Beliaa app took the crown justifiably, as the application can automatically send GPS data to the closest road assistance centres when a car would break down (Kreutz, 2014).


“36 Great Examples Of Crowdsourcing”. Wethinq.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.

Flew, T. (2014). New Media: An Introduction (4th. Ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Starobin, P. (2009). In New Media, Image Is Still Everything. National Journal. COPYRIGHT 2009 Atlantic Media, Inc.






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