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Social Media: Interesting Thoughts from Malcolm Gladwell

Image from The Globe & Mail article online. Photo credit unknown.

I came across this interview that The Globe & Mail did with Malcolm Gladwell, who will be speaking at the F5 Expo here in Vancouver on Wednesday. Bestselling author of BlinkThe Tipping Point, and recently published What The Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell briefly provided his insights to the world of social media and its use in today’s world. He brings up an interesting point of how the ease of how easy it is to organize people or to try to rally people to a cause (at least online), has essentially eliminated the need to form a strong foundation of whatever you’re trying to publicize and to create a strong message that will draw people to your cause. It’s something we all see daily on Facebook, with people creating groups and events and proceeding to send out mass invites to every one of their Facebook friends. It’s all just too easy to create something quickly online and try to start the movement with a few keystrokes and clicks of the mouse. When I see those things, I don’t even bother to RSVP or join the group unless it’s something that I truly support, and usually that support comes from me actually having a direct connection to the cause itself. It’s something I’ve been guilty of too, with my fundraising blitz for the Ride to Conquer Cancer on Facebook. What have I noticed out of it? Nearly all of those people who I invited who I have only met once or twice and haven’t really talked to say they’re not attending, or simply don’t even RSVP to it. It’s those people who I know personally and who I have built that personal connection with who have donated to me and are supporting me. So in the end, to really try to get this going, I’ve had to actually go out and talk to people, building that personalized message that’s more than just a call for donations, and showing through my actions that this isn’t something that I’ve just slapped together and am doing for the hell of it. Ultimately, Facebook as simply served as an easier way for me to provide people with information on how to support me, rather than trying to get them to support me.

He also talks about how having hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter is useful for somethings, such as organizing flash mobs or for publicity. However, for anything truly important (starting a political movement to overthrow a political regime is his example), it’s not quite as useful. Why not? It all goes back to his first point of how little effort and thought most people put into their online rallies. There just simply isn’t that connection. As he simply puts it, “If you follow me on Twitter, I do not own your heart. I may own your pocketbook momentarily. And I may own your attention for five seconds, but that’s it.”

The Globe & Mail also asked Malcolm Gladwell if he felt that social media accelerates the spread of ideas, as he discussed in his book The Tipping Point. Gladwell makes a very true statement that social media isn’t really a vehicle for ideas, as it is a vehicle for observations. Most of us use Twitter and Facebook to share cool things or interesting articles we’ve seen, but rarely do we use it to share our ideas with each other. So is social media useful really? Or is it is simple an online billboard of interesting things? Gladwell puts it this way, “If social media or online communication is the means to the creation of a personal connection, it’s a fabulous thing. But if it’s an excuse to not make a connection, it’s ultimately a trivial thing.”

I’m excited to hear more as to what he has to say at the F5 Expo on Wednesday at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Be sure to check back here later this week to check out my coverage of the expo and what he and other speakers had to say there.

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