This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

March 2, 2011

Social Media and Social Change

While we realize that the Internet is merely a tool, it has played an unmistakable and important role in recent political events. Technology’s impact on political unrest is not new. In 1979 the revolution in Iran used smuggled cassette tapes of inspirational speeches from opposition leaders to provoke turmoil. In 1989 during the fall of the former-Soviet bloc countries, the FAX machine played a critical role in distributing information among dissidents. Twitter and Facebook are simply the newest tools, though significantly more powerful than others before. They supported the Egyptian opposition, after the recent regime change in Tunisia.

According to Guarav Mishra Professor of Social Media at Georgetown University, there are other factors at play here as well. “The societal context and the sequence of how events unfold, the personality of the protagonists and the relationships between them, the stickiness of the message and the timing of its delivery” are all factors that have an effect on the situation.

In fact, the Internet has affected many aspects of our lives: how we shop, how we relate with each other, how we promote goods and services, how we recruit, and especially the need for corporate transparency (addressed in a recent Herman Trend Alert--- "A New Game for Public Affairs").

In the recent “Social Media Comes of Age” The Vocus 2011 Planning Survey, organizations overwhelmingly gave themselves high marks for social media maturity, with 67 percent saying they are “participating, sharing and contributing to social conversations”.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point”, “the point is whether the social web helped create the social context over the long-term that seeded the meme (a cultural item, transmitted by repetition) of the revolution or tipped it into a movement”.

We believe that the Social Web did and that the Internet and particularly social media will continue to affect life as we have known it. Not only may any despot expect regime change revolutions, but social media will continue to affect an increasing number of aspects of our lives. What we have seen in recent events in the Middle East is only the beginning. Get ready; it’s going to be a wild ride!

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