10 Big Ways Social Media Is Changing the World (and Why You Should Care)
I admit that I did not expect to get any flak for my last post about the Dark Side of being a social media evangelist. However, much to my surprise, I did.
Some people good-heartedly teased me a little for “drinking the koolaide” – no big deal. I confessed from the beginning that I was a zealot and I can own that. I’m OK with it. Tease away, I say!
One comment poster expressed himself in the alternative and I was glad to hear his point of view. I didn’t agree with him particularly and I am pretty sure we did not reach kumbaya, but he was kind, engaged, and did not call me crazy or anything else mean. Cool – I can deal with that too.
Others emailed me privately, chastising me rather soundly and not so nicely. Beyond the beautifully haunting irony that their derogatory comments completely supported my point, I did feel pinched. What started out as a bit of a tongue in cheek post became a cause to condemn me for naivety, for encouraging damage to society with my dangerous point of view, and for making light of something so serious.
On one hand, I was quietly pleased those readers were so concerned with my “influence”. To say I was misusing that influence to harm others was, to me, a bridge too far, though. I didn’t take it so well.
Inside, I was wishing those chicken s#@$ts….uh, I mean blog readers…would have the courage to post publicly so everyone can enjoy their wise words of wisdom. But that’s not how it goes sometimes. When questioned about this, they tend to tell me they are saving me humiliation to call me names privately, but I know better. It’s to save themselves humiliation, not me. I’d rather has an open discussion. :-/
It’s all part of being a blogger, I suppose, but it did spur me on to share some exact examples of how I see social media is changing the world for the good, so, here goes!
#1 Philanthropic Micro-lending
Micro-lending fits like a hand in a glove with social. Groups of individuals can sponsor an entrepreneur to buy some goats, or inventory for their weaving business, or more sewing machines for their dress making shop. Borrowers must pay back the loans, with repayment rates in the high 90′s%. Borrowers are often women and entire communities benefit economically from these loans.
Social media has been crucial in broadening the lending pool and forwarding the work of advocates like 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunis, and his Grameen Bank. Kiva, who works almost exclusively online via social, is another example of a network that supports access to the credit markets for all. Social and micro-lending have allowed funds in rich countries to be more easily dispersed to less rich countries in an effort to support self-reliance and dignity in work. I call that a win.
#2 Business Crowd-Source Funding
Much like micro-lending, crowd-source funding allows start-up businesses and enterprising entrepreneurs to appeal to the crowd via social to present an idea, ask for seed capital, and launch new products, services, and events. Social media plays an intrinsic part of promoting projects and actually getting the funding. It would be very hard to do without it.
Here’s a list of 10 you can check out to get the idea – these groups are popping up all the time – enjoy! Crowd-source funding sites.
#3 Virtual Education
Online sharing has elevated education to a worldwide classroom. Open Courseware is allowing thousands of otherwise unavailable classroom courses to be available – free of charge – to anyone with a network connection. Some of these universities – big ones like Stanford, MIT, John-Hopkins, UCLA-Berkley – even make the commitment that if you know someone who wants to have access to the courses but doesn’t have an internet connection, they will print out the coursework materials and mail it to where it needs to go.
How is this social rather than just online? Students share their classroom notes, videos, etc so that the end curriculum result is from numerous points of view. This social sharing and collective wisdom comes from a social media mentality.
#4 Citizen Journalism
A few years ago, for the first time ever in history, Propublica, a news outlet that was never published as a paper newspaper, featured a story that won a Pulitzer Prize. The story was about the hard choices doctors had to make during the Katrina hurricane disaster in New Orleans.
Three things – one, it was a partnership with a larger organization, technically a “competitor”. Two, it was written by a subject matter expert (a former doctor turned investigative researcher), not a traditional “journalist”. Three, it demonstrated that citizen journalists who write are “real” journalists and that online news outlets are “real” news organizations. None of that would have been possible without the shift in mindset being caused and supported by social media.
Sharing, digital delivery, non-traditional writers, and non-traditional information flow. Win, win, win.
#5 Virtual Work
It’s no longer a requirement to have a car, an office, or a “boss”. You don’t have to live near your work, your don’t have to be in the same time zone, and you don’t have to wear any clothes if you don’t want to. Virtual work, with social media based communities around tech, sales, copywriting, graphic design, and more are everywhere.
Social media enables these communities to advertise for low cost, it connects huge groups of individuals with similar interests and it keeps the communities functioning well. The best places get the best people through recommendations and social media is the tool of choice for those recommendations. Power to the people!
#6 Art and Artists Unleashed
Youtube has been arguably the most prolific social media platform in launching new movie producers and music stars. Kickstarter is a social media driven source of seed money and is specifically focused only on funding creative projects. The Long Tail has it right – the stranglehold that high production costs, friction-filled distribution methods, and limited access to audience causes has seen it’s final heyday.
You can make a movie (and promote it via social media) for $15K or less. You can sell millions of recordings without ever having a major label record deal. You can take professional quality photos and make sneakers (or sofas, or fabric, or wallpaper) from the images. Art and artists are unleashed and social media has given them the means to not need the big companies anymore. Poor big companies…
#7 Information Freedom
You might not agree with Wikileaks and rogue groups like Anonymous, but you gotta admit – the threat of having files released openly to the public can be a deterrent for bad acts. The fact that millions in 1st world countries have video phones and can capture any and every move by politicians, business people, government leaders, and more definitely has an impact.
Information freedom isn’t just about catching bad guys in the act either. There are those working to digitize (and share via social) every piece of information they can find. It’s only a matter of time before they get it done.Wikipedia is done by volunteers wanting to make a contribution and they do it for no salary. That is the power of social. Belonging have value and nothing facilitates that better than social media. *she slurps some more koolaide*
#8 Global Connection and Tolerance
Some statistical studies support that prejudice – racism, ageism, nationalism, sexism – tends to diminish with actual personal contact with the subject group. The contact theory goes that if you’ve never met a Muslim, once you meet one, you are less likely to hate them. If you hate a group less, you are less likely to do violence against them. Same with every other type of “ism” out there.
Social media facilitates personal connections globally and thus, tolerance and acceptance. Yes, I am singing “Give Peace a Chance” right now as I type.
#9 Long Tail Choices
I personally like that I can get weird blends of chocolate, coffee, jeans, and music. I also like that I can get custom designed things too. Anecdotally, I can say that finding a niche community that supports me and my weird choices in life enriches my self-esteem and happiness. The creative possibilities that come from a full color palette instead of just three primary colors is pretty amazing.
Whether long tail choices make people happier overall of not – maybe it’s just me – what we can say is that personal expression is increased. We can say that options are increased. We can say that conformity is reduced. We can say that more is more, even though I’d say more is better. Seriously, just think of all the inventions that wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t have an outlet to happen! This choice perhaps seem frivolous, but having more choices that allow for increased self-expression is one of the impacts of social. Let your freak flag fly!
#10 Scientific Advancement
Pro-Am (short for professional – amateur) groups are discovering celestial bodies as we speak. An intense and tightly connected web of professionals and amateur scientists are watching the skies and catching stuff that pro’s alone – even with their massive equipment – could not. There is power in numbers and networks and communities surrounding exploration, discovery, and scientific invention are enriched by social media sharing.
Why You Should Care: It’s NOT Just About What You Ate for Breakfast!
I wish I did not have to keep repeating myself, but it bears repeating. Social media is not just a toy. The mind-set shifts that are occurring because of social media WILL affect the way you are doing business, even if it hasn’t yet. Consider this:
- Opportunities for information and supply arbitrage are decreasing – there is less time between full information penetration than before. How does this affect your PR clients in the financial sector, the technology sector, and the publishing sector?
- Financial and informational barriers are reduced – if your business banks on being the only expert in town, get ready to be obsolete. To me, the thing to know is this – could your company survive if your competitor knew everything about you? If you truly have a value add USP, the answer is yes. If not, the answer is probably no.
- The crowd is now in charge – will your processes, products, and services survive a required feedback loop that actually takes what people really want (rather than what you want to sell them) into account?
I am sure you can come up with other examples of how social media is tearing down the walls of business as usual and impacting us all. Do share in the comments below, and please – don’t send me hate emails. Just comment below, already!
Vicki @Smartwoman Flaugher
[graphics by deanmeyersnet]
Published: April 25, 2012 By: