Obsessed with Social Media… A Year Later.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
The following blog post was written just over a year ago (November 8, 2007, to be exact), during a time when the economy was not yet in the crapper and this thing called “social media” was still rather nebulous for most. And since I’m too busy to write something new a lot has changed in the last 365 days, I thought it would be just chummy to revisit my obsession… which you may have guessed has hardly waned.

Being a Genius and all, it’s not surprising, really, that the words I wrote a year ago are even more true today. The coolest part? Those numbers I posted re Facebook etc—they’ve more than doubled—and show no sign of slowing down.

God, I love it when I’m right.

***

Is it just me or is the social media bubble expanding faster than Kirstie Allie’s waistline?

Between the buzz around Facebook’s recent $15 billion valuation, the hype about their much-anticipated advertising platform, and the steady stream of “one-of-a-kind” social media companies popping up daily, it does feel a bit like we’re all drinking the Kool-Aid.

Heck, even Oprah and Martha Stewart have hopped on the bandwagon.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry Venture Capitalist throwing their money at the next-best social media monolith, it’s easy to lose site of the fact that we’re not just in the thick of an investment-frenzy; we’re part of a revolution.

Social Media = Democracy
The internet is—in a very real way—becoming democratized (at last!). Not only can you reach virtually anyone, anywhere or get information about anything online these days… but you can actually participate! Have a voice! Share all of your [boring, ridiculous, unnecessary… or in my case, totally brilliant] opinions about everything from the HDTV you just purchased to the color of the lint you just found in your bellybutton.

It’s democracy in it’s purest form: everyone truly has a voice. No longer can we blame “the media” for drowning us in propaganda or tricking us into poor choices. (Instead, we can blame our friends, colleagues, and the self-proclaimed experts and “bonafide geniuses” whose blogs we foolishly read.) Where once you had to be famous, infamous, or very well connected to get in the public eye… now, you just need a live internet connection and a desire to express yourself.

Wrote a book? Self-publish it!

Took a picture? Post it on Flickr!

Aspiring filmmaker, actress, or musician? Whip up a sample video and pop it on You Tube!

Pissed off about the crap PC you bought and the even crappier Vista operating system that came with it? Post your raving mad feedback on Microsoft’s website!

Sure, everyone has a voice. But is anyone listening?
As the social media phenomenon gains momentum, so do the possibilities. The question is… beyond our own vanity and relentless desire to be entertained, is there any real purpose to all this “interaction”? Does anybody really care to watch, read, and listen to all this User Generated Noise?

Yes, yes, and undeniably YES!

Side note: I would assume that our sick fascination with reality TV is also responsible for fueling our fascination with social media (guilty!). If I were a geneticist, I’d place my bets on a single gene being responsible for both of these guilty pleasures—and probably for all the neck-craning that happens when we drive by car wrecks, too. But I digress…

Our appetite for new venues in which to assert our brilliance, our uniqueness, and our popularity is virtually boundless:

  • 50 million Facebook users
  • 3500 photos added to Flickr per minute
  • 55 million YouTube users (11.6 million of these are over the age of 55)
  • 713,00 daily active users of the iLike application on Facebook, which allows users to share, rate, and recommend music. Another 15 million registered users on iLike.com

Apparently, we have a lot of opinions and we’re not shy about sharing them. How very American.

Social media will save the world… Now what?
Even if I’m wrong about what drives our interest in both contributing to and consuming the social media bubble (though being a genius, I am very rarely wrong), this much is indisputable: it’s not going away.

If you’re a smart marketer (and let’s face it—most of you aren’t), you’ll get on the ball lickety split and formulate a solid strategy for leveraging this growing phenomena… bearing in mind, of course, that the rules ain’t the same old rules that have made you the fat, lazy dinosaur that you are.

For starters, forget about “positioning” or “packaging” or any of the other P’s you learned about in Marketing School. Social media scoffs at these! The power of User Generated Content embraces a more democratic set of values: like sharing, engagement, authenticity and community.

I’d love to tell you more, but I haven’t updated my Facebook status in at least an hour and my Photobucket upload is almost done…

Political Genius.

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Today has been… AMAZING. OVERWHELMING. INSPIRING!

I’ve used more Kleenex on this day than I have since my last cold.

Who knew that election results could make me shed tears of joy?

WOW.

Rather than bore you with lame attempts to capture my thoughts & sentiments at this moment, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite Victory Day posts.

Enjoy. Keep the faith. Never say “impossible” again!

From Illustrator Patrick Moberg:

From a citizen in Turtle Creek, PA:

I have a confession to make.

I did not vote for Barack Obama today.

I’ve openly supported Obama since March.  But I didn’t vote for him today.

I wanted to vote for Ronald Woods. He was my algebra teacher at Clark Junior High in East St. Louis, IL.  He died 15 years ago when his truck skidded head-first into a utility pole.  He spent many a day teaching us many things besides the Pythagorean Theorem.  He taught us about Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis and many other civil rights figures who get lost in the shadow cast by Martin Luther King, Jr.

But I didn’t vote for Mr. Woods.

I wanted to vote for Willie Mae Cross. She owned and operated Crossroads Preparatory Academy for almost 30 years, educating and empowering thousands of kids before her death in 2003.  I was her first student.  She gave me my first job, teaching chess and math concepts to kids in grades K-4 in her summer program.  She was always there for advice, cheer and consolation.  Ms. Cross, in her own way, taught me more about walking in faith than anyone else I ever knew.

But I didn’t vote for Ms. Cross.

I wanted to vote for Arthur Mells Jackson, Sr. and Jr. Jackson Senior was a Latin professor.  He has a gifted school named for him in my hometown.  Jackson Junior was the pre-eminent physician in my hometown for over 30 years.  He has a heliport named for him at a hospital in my hometown.  They were my great-grandfather and great-uncle, respectively.

But I didn’t vote for Prof. Jackson or Dr. Jackson.

I wanted to vote for A.B. Palmer. She was a leading civil rights figure in Shreveport, Louisiana, where my mother grew up and where I still have dozens of family members.  She was a strong-willed woman who earned the grudging respect of the town’s leaders because she never, ever backed down from anyone and always gave better than she got.  She lived to the ripe old age of 99, and has a community center named for her in Shreveport.

But I didn’t vote for Mrs. Palmer.

I wanted to vote for these people, who did not live to see a day where a Black man would appear on their ballots on a crisp November morning.

In the end, though, I realized that I could not vote for them any more than I could vote for Obama himself.

So who did I vote for?

No one.

I didn’t vote.  Not for President, anyway.

Oh, I went to the voting booth.  I signed, was given my stub, and was walked over to a voting machine.  I cast votes for statewide races and a state referendum on water and sewer improvements.

I stood there, and I thought about all of these people, who influenced my life so greatly.  But I didn’t vote for who would be the 44th President of the United States.

When my ballot was complete, except for the top line, I finally decided who I was going to vote for – and then decided to let him vote for me.  I reached down, picked him up, and told him to find Obama’s name on the screen and touch it.

And so it came to pass that Alexander Reed, age 5, read the voting screen, found the right candidate, touched his name, and actually cast a vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Oh, the vote will be recorded as mine.  But I didn’t cast it.

Then again, the person who actually pressed the Obama box and the red “vote” button was the person I was really voting for all along.

It made the months of donating, phonebanking, canvassing, door hanger distributing, sign posting, blogging, arguing and persuading so much sweeter.

So, no, I didn’t vote for Barack Obama.  I voted for a boy who now has every reason to believe he, too, can grow up to be anything he wants…even President.


From The Onion:

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress

November 5, 2008 | Issue 44•45

WASHINGTON—After emerging victorious from one of the most pivotal elections in history, president-elect Barack Obama will assume the role of commander in chief on Jan. 20, shattering a racial barrier the United States is, at long last, shitty enough to overcome.

And my favorite excerpt from this article:

Carrying a majority of the popular vote, Obama did especially well among women and young voters, who polls showed were particularly sensitive to the current climate of everything being fucked.

Sad, but true.

Read the full article here >

And last, but hardly least… from Barack Obama, 44th President of these United States:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

This is your victory.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too. And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see?

What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.