The wheels been churning for a while… Started with the question, How do idea’s gather such momentum that they turn into social movements or trends or a worthy cause people come out to support. On a book hunting trip to the local bookshops in Islamabad, I came across a book, ‘The tipping point’ by Malcom Gladwell. Although I didn’t read the book cover to cover, it introduces the idea of word of mouth, certain people with gifts, ‘connectors’ who tell their peers, and point to be noted; rather large peer groups, about a new café or restaurant that they discovered. Word gets around fast, and soon enough the small start up has more tummies to fill then they ever anticipated.
TED.com has a great selection of talks on various subjects given by people who you’d want to listen to. A talk by Seth Godin, on tribes, introduced the idea of tribes. Niche groups with something in common who can connect across the internet. The gothic gang in Aussie who hook themselves to meat hooks and swing came to mind. To attract and connect with other people with similar interests you need to reach out. What more efficient way of reaching out then the internet. People want to be missed, says Seth, and tribe leaders can provide you with that. First we had the factory model, which said, if you have fast enough machines, you could make enough money, then it was the Tv, if you had enough air time, you could sell your product, now we’re reaching to a new model of leader ship. Where people with similar interests gather around and form a tribe. Humanity is going back to its roots.
Alexis Ohanian of Reddit.com tells an amusing story of how Green Peace wanting to stop the whaling of the coast of Japan got inadvent help from social networking websites. Mister Splashy Pants was voted on the internet as the name for the campaign to save the whales. The amazing thing was, that people like you and me, who have bigger thing to fight for then whales in Japan also voted. Maybe we care for the whales, maybe we don’t, the point is, you heard from a friend, ‘Hey vote for splashy pants’, and soon enough your telling your friends. Perhaps not knowing what the whole buzz and wave is even about, but creating momentum nonetheless. Japan called of the whaling ofcourse.
Now I will attempt to bring this all in perspective, for my benefit, as well as any potential readers. Take this blog as an example, I can write anything and click publish, and anyone surfing the web can come across my writings. I have published them on the web. Published not in the strictest sense of having written over a hundred pages of text and compiled a book, shown it to an editor, a publishing house, gotten rights and now its selling on the market, but published on the web.
And it costs me nothing, just the monthly bill for the internet.
The web has come along way from the static websites of the early days to dynamic flash websites with the razzle dazzle to going back to the basics with web design, but going ahead with content and functionality. User generated content, social networking, user communities or tribes as Seth Godin calls them, that is the present and future of the web. Its easier to sell now, you don’t have to follow the mass marketing model, where you bombard people with one advert after another until it sits in their head and they start singing or humming the tune of your advert. Now its what google developed. Targeted marketing I call it. Maybe the pundits call it something else.. Showing certain adverts to certain people by gauging their personal preferences, as an example, in Gmail, if I am reading or writing a mail with the mention of MS or scholarship somewhere, then I notice the adverts are all about scholarship for an MS here or there. This is a very effective and smart model for advertising. Involves collecting personal data based on internet surfing habits, they find out what sites you visit, what is the frequency of visiting these sites and what banners you click etc.
So how does this new web and marketing model effect the social movement mechanics. Social movement is about reaching out to people and mobilizing them for a common cause. Like a tribe, a group of people who have something in common which forms the basis of their bond. Social change is brought about by a few who challenge the status quo and reach enough people to create enough momentum to bring about some real change, Social networking, marketing, its all about connecting to people and getting your message product across. These tools can be used to bring reach out, create momentum enough momentum to get noticed by those perched high up above the rest of us.