How Social Media Became a Speeding Bullet

originally posted on Concept Hub

Three years ago, when the tools and trends of social media hit my personal radar screen, I recognized three things that made social media unique;

  1. The ways that these tools were enabling people to find, connect, and openly communicate with others all over the world was going to change everything.
  2. The rapid adoption of Social Media tools was not being supported by any traditional sales, training, or support efforts.
  3. The overall ideas that make Social Media so intriguing were nothing really new to business. It was still about communicating (listening, broadcasting, and responding). It was just a new, more efficient, and much more accelerated process.

In the 3 years that I have been exploring and consulting on social media tools and trends, it seems that in spite of not having the traditional sales, training and support efforts that have pushed other tools and trends throughout the world, social media accelerated into the mainstream like a speeding bullet.

What has made these tools and trends so enticing? Why have people chosen to openly expose their lives and connections on many various levels?

There are at least 9 factors that accelerated the adoption of social media;

1. Low Risk –  Social Networks are free. There is no risk to setting up a profile on a social network. Each user has a choice of what information they want to provide and with whom they want to provide that information to by setting their personal security settings.

2. Easy Trial – People are able to explore social networks without setting up a profile. They can read blogs, listen to podcasts, explore social bookmarks and explore Wikipedia without ever contributing to the information. Once they are ready to contribute that can do so with baby steps by adding a comment or editing a Wikipedia entry.

3. Willingness to Embrace Change – Each and every generation that is here today has experienced accelerated changes throughout their whole life. Senior Citizens lived before television was mainstream and before we explored space. They have seen more change in their lifetime than today’s Millennial generation can even imagine. They have had to adapt to each new technology and social media is just another new way to do things. The Millennial generation may not even know that social media is anything new.

4. The Ability to Make Personal Decisions – There is no “committee meeting” or dinner table discussion to decide if we should participate in social media. Participation is a very personal decision. Even for those who end up representing an organization by adding a profile on LinkedIn or another professional site, or participating in professional discussion groups.

5. Grassroots Marketing Effort – Wikipedia cites one reason for the rise in popularity of blogs as

Through citations, as well as popularity through affiliation (i.e. blogroll).

Other social media tools have spread through invites to friends, online endorsements and reviews of such sites, and through traditional word of mouth in offline conversations.

6. Strong Felt Need to Communicate with Others and Express Ideas –  In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Social Needs are the most important once we have satisfied our basic survivor needs. Fortunately, most of the connected world does not need to focus a tremendous amount of energy on fulfilling the hunger, thirst or safety need. This leaves people to seek ways to connect with others. Particularly others of like minds where there is a sense of belonging. This is followed by the need for recognition or being heard. Social media has helped many people fulfill those basic needs.

7. Highly Compatible with Ways We Were Already Communicating – Most people were already well versed with using a computer, software applications, and the Internet – the basic use of social media does not require people to learn any new computer language or to adapt to a foreign interface.

8. Easy to Get Involved – Once a person gets involved with a social network they find that most communities are very welcoming to new members. There are no initiation rights or secret votes of who can be a part of a group and who is not good enough.

9. Mainstream Media and Peer Influence – Those who somehow did not see this speeding bullet coming our way, who are not active or interested in the Internet to notice the changes or simply had their focus on other areas, can no longer ignore what is going on because they are hearing about social media from their friends, colleagues and within every mainstream media outlet.

These 8 factors that spread social media throughout every aspect of our lives are changing every aspect of our lives.

They are breaking down boundaries for collaboration and innovation. Innovations that can be developed the same way these social media tools were developed, by a few people not inhibited by time, geography or finances to solve their own needs.

Newly discovered innovations can spread throughout online networks with the same acceleration or even faster than social media did.

The next tools and trends that can change everything may only be a click away.