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December 22, 2009 / Mervyn Dinnen

Power of Social Media : Collectivism, Individualism or another ism

We’re all allowed to change our minds, right? One of the exciting things about Social Media is its instantaneousness. And if you’re using Twitter, it’s brevity. 140 characters don’t really give you the space to evolve a theory, put forward an argument. You act, you react, and you shoot from the hip and type. You hit ‘send’ and think ‘did I say what I meant to say?’

I say this because I’ve changed my mind over something. On Sunday night in the UK a lot of us got excited about the race to be Number 1 in the Top 40 music charts. I say ‘music’ because it used to be the singles chart. But it isn’t anymore. A lot of music is now downloaded, not bought over the counter, and last year this led to the chart compilers deciding that tracks did not have to be released as physical singles to feature in the chart. If they could be purchased as a download then they could be counted.

This isn’t a post about music though; it’s about Social Media and the potential that it has to change things.

My immediate thought on hearing the news was ‘YES’!! The marketing might of the Cowell machine has spent its millions but had just been outsmarted by a Facebook campaign started by a part time DJ and his wife who wanted to challenge the omnipotence of the mediocrity that X Factor represents.

I immediately tweeted that this was a big moment for Social Media, that the big issue wasn’t who won but that a social media campaign, starting with 2 people and spreading to 700,000, made a big statement to big business. I noticed other tweets saying much the same, and Bill Boorman summarised it very well in his blog.

And yet…and yet…thinking it through yesterday morning I began to question, to see lost possibilities.

Fed up with seeing the Xmas Number 1 (in the great cultural scheme of things a fairly irrelevant accolade) effectively chosen for us by 1 individual, we have slapped him down and really shown him who controls the marketplace by ensuring that this year’s Number 1…has been chosen for us by 1 individual. Plus ca change??

Now I’m not knocking Jon Morter at all, am fully supportive of his motivations, and I can understand why he would choose a song with such a strong anti-corporate message for this purpose, but I ask you…our response to people buying any old mush that Cowell releases is to rush out and buy a download of a 17 year old track that a Facebook Group tells us to. Is this just another form of naive collectivism…following the herd for the end not the means?

To me Social Media offers unlimited possibilities for individualism. If we really want a revolution then shouldn’t we  just go out and do it, find like minded people and make things happen, rather than just find others doing it and tag along?

Oh the sweet victory if those 700,000 could have found a talented, unknown musician fully deserving of a wider audience and propel them to Number 1! Over 500,000 downloads selling because people use the power Social Media to spread  music that wouldn’t otherwise be heard would be a real coup.

Maybe we should be running a Social Media X Factor…let up and coming musicians circulate their work within a chart acceptable download environment.  Lets face it, 700,000 Facebook members bought 500,000 downloads whilst 20 million TV viewers only bought 450,000. Doesn’t that show the passion and power that should be tapped in to?

I’m hoping that the ‘power’ of Social Media doesn’t just become a channel for evangelical causes created by people with time on their hands for others to follow. Maybe I’m being too much of an idealist, but my question is:

What should the Power of  Social Media be about?? Collectivism or Individualism. How do we get a mixture of the two?

It would be great to get your thoughts!

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4 Comments

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  1. AlasdairDMurray / Dec 22 2009 1:55 PM

    I think it’s already clear that social media can have a profound influence on life events. Remember that Jan Moir woman, and now the RATM incident? Two very different events but both generating enough support amongst total strangers to cause more than a bit of a stir. Trial by Twitter anyone?

  2. Andy Young / Dec 22 2009 2:32 PM

    Great post Mervyn.

    Thought provoking to say the least and I found myself agreeing with conflicting points which says that I clearly don’t have a set view on things on this subject. And there’s nothing wrong in that I guess.

    On the specific point of the Cowell machine being given a rude awakening, well not that much of one if truth be told. They managed to receive additional publicity that they would otherwise not have had, not to forget that the song that did make it to No1 is actually owned by Sony, Cowells bedfellows. So he did all right.

    As far as the big question at the end of your blog, ‘WHAT SHOULD SOCIAL MEDIA BE ABOUT”, why does it have to be “about” anything? Sure, people can have agenda’s, strategies and any other means as to how they want to communicate with the outside world, be it to build brands or simply have a conversation with like minded people who have shared interests. As you’ll know, I like to think I can hold my own (sometimes at any rate!) having the odd chat down the pub on the topics of football, cricket, recruitment and “social media” but we don’t need to know what “going down the pub is all about” do we? That’s because it can be about different things to different people. Some will be happy going to the Dog & Duck for a drink and chat about some appalling refereeing decision the night before, others will want to get blotted out of their minds for as little as possible down at Wetherspoons.

    Just as the internet has evolved, there are now sub categories within it that (of which social media has many more of it’s own) are now going through that teenage angst of puberty and they really don’t know if they want to spend more time chatting up the girls or just talking about them with their mates who they are much more comfortable being around. In the meantime, we should look to experiment, chat to those that we deem attractive and see what works, what doesn’t and then embrace the good bits (!) and make the not so good bits better. I’m not sure we need to determine quite yet what “it’s all about” though it’ll be fun finding out!

    Of course, there will be a few more regular officiado’s on the subject who will claim that they’ve got it covered, got it sorted. There was always the super popular boy at school who claimed to have slept with half the girls in the 6th Form. It is only on leaving school that you find the girls thought he was a bit of a dork. He talked a good game which was a great tactic to keep the uninitiated at arms length, make everything sound terribly confusing and then try and take some sort of high ground. I’m going to stick to the school of thought that says “this is fun, lets get on the ride and see where it’s heading. If you get my drift.

  3. tlcolson / Dec 22 2009 8:09 PM

    Ok, before I dive back into year end payroll insanity, here’s my take.

    Social Media is about you being you, and having relevant things to say – and finding people who have opinions about your relevant thoughts, and the subsequent sharing of those opinions until a consensus is reached in which everyone who has contributed to the consensus owns a piece of the thought process.

    And then you going out with that consensus and finding great ways to spread the message.

    Individualism? Definitely.
    Collectivism? I think I see it as Collaborationism. (is that a word?)

    That’s what I think, care to share an opinion?

  4. Clay Barham / Dec 22 2009 10:54 PM

    UP YOUR KNOW-HOW
    Leonard Read, the Founder of FEE, used to say “Improve you before trying to improve others.” It is embarrassing to argue with someone who appears to know more and grinds you into the dust. Yet, in politics, it is easy to find the roots of all arguments and see how issues follow those roots. That’s what I’ve tried to provide on claysamerica.com. If you know the roots, where the yellow brick road begins, you know better how to reach the conclusions you seek. You can take a reasoned position without passion and injury, and be the “go to” person in your circle. Try it and see. Claysamerica.com

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