In government or business: Power to the Tweeple
Revolutionary chic is not a new thing. Just ask Che or Mao. But the latest iconography centers not around a firebrand in a worker’s cap, but a small handful of social networking applications: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Take recent events in the Middle East. While heads of state like former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarek were haunted by Cold War-era fears of insurgents taking over the state’s airwaves, hundreds of thousands of people have been plotting in plain sight on their homepages. It’s the coup d’état equivalent of breaking up with someone by changing your relationship status online.
Unlike that technique, however, the postings and tweets have been a relatively non-aggressive path to schism. And made social media one of the most important and charged stories of our time. There have been calls for Twitter to get the Nobel Peace Prize; hastily-shot cellphone videos have eclipsed slick Super Bowl ads for number of hits on YouTube; an Egyptian baby was recently named Facebook.
Who doesn’t want to harness that kind of energy?
While you may not be out to change the world, you can use the same social networking tools to revolutionize your business. Perhaps even more effectively. In an October 2010 article for the New Yorker (unprovidentially subtitled Why The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted), Malcolm Gladwell cited the work of sociologist Mark Granovetter in noting that our acquaintances – such as Facebook friends, and Twitter followers – and not our friends are our greatest source of new ideas and information.
This phenomenon, Gladwell concludes, has more impact when not too much is being asked of a person. In other words, it’s a lot easier to use Twitter and Facebook to draw someone to your next event than to protest in Tahrir Square. Plus, it’s fast, it’s free and it’s viral.
In fact, the only real downside to social media is that — just as some toppling regimes are using it to denounce their opponents – those loyal to your competition can employ it against you. But if they’re posting about you, shouldn’t you be, too?