In this day and age, traditional advertising is seen by many professionals and corporations as a waste of time and money. Many magazines and newspapers have seen their revenues drop precipitiously over the last five years, as businesses start to experiment with the likes of Google AdWords and pay-per-click advertising. Social networking is becoming big business and changing the world... or is it?
Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers, has a provocative article in this week’s New Yorker, Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted. He argues against the notion that new social medias like Twitter and Facebook are changing the way people engage in social activism:
"Look, technology is going to solve the energy problem. I'm convinced of it. But technology does not and cannot change the underlying dynamics of 'human' problems: it does not make it easier to love or to motivate or to dream or convince."
Adding fuel to the fire, Tim Adams of the Guardian has responded with an article detailing the reactions of social media advocates that makes for interesting reading.
I'm not going to wade into the fray at this point. Social marketing is still somewhat of an experiment, and while I don't necessarily agree or disagree with Malcolm, one key deficiency of the new technologies is that they, like email, lack essential non-verbal messages. Perhaps this is part of the reason they are failing to really influence any major social change.
In the absence of those all-important non-verbal cues, each one of us does the best we can with limited information: we guess, we ignore, we worry, we assume. It can be vitally important to take care when crafting online messages, limited to 140 characters or not, so that our meaning is not misunderstood. If the issue is one fraught with concern, don't use email or social media: arrange a face-to-face meeting, or pick up the phone.
I'll leave you to reflect on all this and make up your own minds... In the meantime, however, why not check us out on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? :)