The fog of revolution: social media trends 2006 & 2012


Thanks to the brevity and immediacy of Twitter I have already Tweeted saying everyone needs to read the sources of inspiration for this post. So you’ll forgive me for opening with some tangentilish thoughts…

Or maybe you won’t.

One of my favourite observations about change and the web is what I call “the fog of revolution”, a phrase that became very popular last year in a different context. When you’re in the middle of a revolution it is very hard to know what’s going on, not least when there are so many voices close by telling you exactly what is going on, and generally being very wrong.

You’re not sure where it’s going, what the outcomes will be – you’re riding the wave, charging through the fog with a roaring crowd, swept along by events, every now and again suspecting you might be influencing them, or at least involved in them – but you can’t be sure…

Revolutions do strange things to your perspective, to your sense of time passing and the velocity of change.

Alan Patrick notes in his post Snake Oil and Strategy

…as Bill Gates said about the Internet in the late 1990’s, the changes are less than you will expect in the next 2 years, but far greater in the next 10.

To give a couple of 2006 examples from my own experience…

You think that in the next year or so, Google will defeat black hat SEO marketing because of its superior resources and mission to find content. Five years later you’re right.

To give another: you think Techmeme is a beautiful model for organising buzz, for not only finding interesting things but getting a sense of what’s going on. Aggregation and curation will a major focus for brands and media companies alike – they will create content on their front page and offer a complementary page showing what everyone else in their network is saying. Six years later you’re still not right (although curation’s being taken more seriously – see Adam below).

You think social media as a term will most likely disappear and everything will just be called the web. This just the latest chapter in the evolution of the web. Social media’s just a term describing it. So wrong. Six years later, social media seems to be used as a proxy term for all things digital…

One insight I still find useful that was drawn in those heady days is this: the revolution we are living through will bring constant disruption for the rest of our careers/lives (whichever ends first)…

Adam Tinworth, a comrade in connectedness from all the way back then, wrote an amazing summary of the themes from Social Media Week London.

This has been followed by some further thoughts from Alan Patrick, who I consider the antidote to any bubble-headedness that my occur in my thinking.

Read both their posts, but Adam’s “five lessons” are these:

  1. This is just the beginning
  2. Practical advice is thin on the ground
  3. Beware the noise
  4. There’s lots of work left to do on curation
  5. Events are the new media

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. But the fact that it is the same as it ever was in incredible in some ways.

Oh yeah, when I say “same as it ever was” – let’s say except for “Events are the new media”.

That is huge.

The Brilliant Noise crew did some work behind the scenes on big events recently, and this rings very, very true.

Adam’s talking about people using social media to find ways meet face-to-face, but I think the phrase “Events are the New Media” also speaks to the importance of events in social media as a focus for conversation and community.

Take live television. The Grammys and The Brits – long format TV events – have both enjoyed the largest audiences for a very long time recently this year, after years of decline. In the case of the former, a lot of this was perhaps down to the death of a major pop star, but both shows took place in social media as much as they did on TV.

More on that another time, anyway…

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