Friday, February 27, 2009

Social media hitting Tipping Point

Published Feb 2, 2009, Business Examiner

When I read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point several years ago, I was fascinated by his theories about the drivers of social change and the powers ? or people ? that create it. He defines people behind change in three categories; Connectors are those who influence others; Mavens are those who are information specialists, and Salesmen as those who persuade. When these three groups work together, momentum builds and the general masses follow. Gladwell terms the moment where mass adoption or social change happens as a Tipping Point, or the point where "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable."

It is my estimation that we have reached a Tipping Point in the adoption of social media tools such as FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn and our own local Web2.0 company, Konnects. I had scoffed when Konnects co-founder Jim Crabbe explained to me several years ago that he believed all business cards in the future would list an individual's social networking site as prominently as their e-mail address.. I was not an early adopter of this new media. Upon urging from Jim, I put my general profile up on Konnects and forgot about it for several years.

Three years ago, I reluctantly created a MySpace profile when I realized it was the only way I was going to reach my 16-year-old stepsister. It worked. I followed her life and interactions with friends, her music interests and stayed current on her ever-changing hair styles and colors. I also discovered that many of my friends and acquaintances were on MySpace, sharing photos, thoughts and current events in their lives.

Then I was persuaded to join Facebook because in one week's time, more than 10 people referred to their sites and the information that I would already know, if I was connected. Amazingly I found Facebook was populated by people from all stages of my life, current and in the distant past, and have passively kept up with all of them.

Professionally, I am on both LinkedIn and Konnects, and receive valuable information about colleagues long before I would, if I wait to run into them or hear through the grapevine of their promotions, career changes and even layoffs. These are powerful tools for checking references, affiliations and staying in contact.

I sit on the advisory board for the Center for Ethical Development at Tacoma Community College and the most recent campus forum we coordinated was around the ethical implications of social media ? how is it used, what information is accessible to whom and how the generations view accessibility of personal information. What you probably already know is that the generational gap regarding privacy is vast, as is the way social media are used and regarded.

The fact that we have reached a Tipping Point in adoption of this media does not mean that it is used universally the same way, and that means, for those of us who are late adopters, that we have a pretty steep learning curve.

There is still a lot of fear, trepidation and frank dismissal of social media tools by many business persons. And I, the early skeptic, am now saying that those who don't get with the program and demystify this powerful communication tool for themselves, will be left in the dust. Social media sites are free to set up with your profile and you determine what information is published on it. You have control regarding your privacy settings and those with whom you are affiliated. Take the plunge, and while you are at it, Google yourself. You might be surprised to find what is already out there free for the world to know about you.

We at the BE are in discovery mode as to how to harness the power of social media for the dissemination of news, connecting our readership, and sharing ideas and information. You can expect to see new tools and seminars in the coming months to help our readers to do the same. Together, we will demystify and make these tools work for all generations and business applications.

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