What is the Root Cause of Social Media?

by Jay Deragon on 01/15/2008

What is the Root Cause of Social Media?Why have more than 500 million people engaged in social networking and growing at historic rates? Why are there more than 60 million blogs discussing anything, everything, by anyone and everyone?

Why are millions of individuals using the tools of social media? Why is it than business leaders discount these movements as fads and and hype? Have you ever simply asked yourself why?

All of the above activity, the movements, and the markets being formed are the effects of suppressed human expression over time which has now found the means of free expression and without restraints. As children we were told to be quite. As youth were were told not to speak up and express how we feel. As adults we were taught how to survive in the corporate world by only speaking the corporate speak.

As consumers we’ve been inundated with surveys asking our opinions only to find out our opinions don’t really matter. As consumers we’re given phone numbers and email addresses to “customer support desk” for the products we buy only to experience automated responses or be put on hold when we attempt to get help. As voters we’ve witnessed “political speak, scandals, the influence of money” and wonder who and what do we believe anymore.

We’re simply tired of not being able to express or be heard. We’re also tired of being “spun” by the media. We’re tired but motivated to engage in real conversations.

Consider the History of Traditional Media

Paul Gillin, in his book “The New Influencers states: “About 150 years ago, influencers began to become concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer entities, mainly media companies. Over time what became important was the publication, the broadcast, not the writer or broadcaster. The soapbox of media became owned by someone else , someone who could silence them if they went astray.”

The economics of the New Influencers turns the mainstream media model on its head. The new influencers don’t need corporate parents and corporate pressures. Mainstream media will be around for a long time. It will change and adapt to a new world. But it will become less and less relevant to markets”.

Mr. Gillin’s book points to multiple examples of the old and new powers of influence. The old models and related behaviors have shaped out cultures globally and for a long time we simply walked the walk and talked the talk because no one, except those relations contained in our small worlds cared to listen and yet everyone everywhere knew the truth.

A Shift has Occurred

Now our world has become expanded, one to one to millions because of technology. We can now “connected” to anyone anywhere with the click of a mouse. We can now express ourselves freely with no influence from institutions. Our ability to express and connect has now created the means to converse and be heard. We finally found the pathway to open and honest conversations which has been blocked for decades upon decades. We are free from traditional influencers and we have become the influential.

Major media has noticed the shift and are using our medium of open and unrestrained conversational content to gage the influencers on all matters that influence “we the people“. The growth and influence of Web 2.0 in the hands, hearts and minds of “the people“, while in its infancy stage, it will continue to reshape markets, influence politics and last but not least change the rules of business.

Historically business models and structures have followed form with traditional media. The few at the top controlled the conversational content and direction aimed at influencing the masses to behave according to the needs of their markets. Now the masses are the markets and the conversations can no longer be controlled rather the conversations of the people will influence the business markets.

Businesses that understand this shift will make the required transformation in models, structure and most importantly the conversations. These businesses will gain market share quickly by adopting the new conversations of the relationship economy. However, this will require a generational shift in leadership because the minds of today’s generation of business leaders has been molded in the past and few will allow their molds to be transformed into new ones. The difference between those that do and those that don’t will be their ability to listen.

What say you?


Michael Pokocky January 18, 2008 at 3:11 pm

And may I add {TRUST} and {Proactive Engagement} which set the atmosphere for even the shyest amongst us to {Particpate}.

Michael Pokocky January 18, 2008 at 3:10 pm

And may I add {TRUST} and {Proactive Engagement} which set the atmosphere for even the shyest amongst us to {Particiate}.

Carter F Smith January 16, 2008 at 10:28 am

Doc Searls’ recent post suggests if PR wishes to remain relevant in an environment where networked markets get smarter faster than those that would spin them, the profession needs to define and satisfy a market for something other than spin. I think that means take the time to reshape the model based on what we, the people, take our time to tell you, big business, what we want.

I’m thinking fighting fire with fire is the best way. Can you imagine the message that big business would get (or have the opportunity to “get”) if thousands of their would-be customers sent them a message in a language they purport to understand? Is there a chance that their procedures would change if a group of folks started using their tactics to convey a very important, business dependent message? I’m thinking that’s what it would take.


Jay Deragon January 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

You just echoed the “voice” of millions of people trapped in “corporate speak” which is why the social web has such appeal.

Thank you for your comments.!

Jessan Dunn Otis January 15, 2008 at 11:08 am

In my experiences as a boot-strapped, professional, independent writer, ceo, social entrepreneur and buyer/consumer, best business practices has always (ultimately) been about the conversation(s) and the listening.

Now that there’s words to describe it – all well and good.

However, if – whether you’re selling a product or a service – you do not communicate with and listen to your buyers (no matter what words you apply to define/describe that) you are, ultimately, dictating to rather than responding to your ever-changing, potential clientele.

And, I don’t know ’bout you; but, after many years of working for (rather than with) many individuals and companies prior to founding my own company – I’m not real keen, these days, at “taking dictation.”

Founded on the essential premise of: |collaborate|communicate|create|(c), if the mutual respect and collaborative process aren’t strongly understood, communications and the creation of (almost) anything can fall far short of even the most simple goals – let alone exceeding shared expectations – which is the quintessential star.

Dance on …

What say you, please?


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