The metaphor of “sowing seeds” is often used when we speak in terms of what we plant in ours and others hearts and minds. We plant the seeds of ideas, emotions, knowledge and attitudes every time we engage, speak or share something on and off line. For good or even bad seeds to grow they have to be planted in fertile minds.
The reason social media has such impact is because the web is a network of fertile minds where “seeds of thought” can be sown and when the intangible thoughts become tangible there is action. Social media is transforming all things intangible into tangible results. Ideas are intangible until they are manifested into something tangible. Communications is intangible until its impact creates tangible results. Knowledge is intangible until used to create a tangible result. Attitudes are intangible until they create a tangible reaction. While many think of social media as a marketing tool what most miss is that social media transforms intangibles into tangibles. Anything that transforms something from one state into another state is considered to be disruptive.
Just How Disruptive Is It?
The Evidence of this disruption is everywhere. In a Forbes magazine article from the Tuck School of Business titled: Global Disruption by Social Media states: The media has lost its stronghold over the production and distribution of knowledge. Consumers of media are now also producers of media. Over the last decade, social media has emerged as an innovative tool which has managed to disrupt traditional business models, governmental proceedings and news reporting. Web 2.0 has changed the way that business is conducted, facilitated mass mobilization of political protests and altered power dynamics in the media.
The disruption is not just in media. The Washington Post announces, ‘Big data’ from social media, elsewhere online redefines trend-watching more and more people are finding new ways to use the massive amount of data being generated constantly. They are taking data mining to a completely new level.
As chief executive of Derwent Capital Markets, Paul Hawtin uses a computer program to filter through hundreds of millions of Twitter posts on a daily basis. He uses information he gleans from public conversations to buy and trade millions of dollars of stocks for private investors. He buys when global sentiment is happy, and sells short when it is anxious. Ariana Eunjung Cha reports that Hawtin has seen a gain of more than seven percent in the first quarter of this year. Social media provides Hawtin with news quicker than traditional methods, and that translates into money.
Indeed, the World Economic Forum has classified “big data” to be a new economic asset, like oil. “Business boundaries are being redrawn.”
A social science professor at Harvard University and co-founder of Crimson Hexagon, a data analysis firm based in Boston, Gary King states, “This is changing the world in a big way. It enables us to watch changes in society in real time and make decisions in a way we haven’t been able to ever before.”
When technology transforms the intangibles into tangibles the abundance of opportunities is beyond our imaginations.