As I watch events unfolding around the world over the last several days, I keep thinking of the opening lyrics to Paul Simon's song "The Boy in the Bubble":
"And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road
There was a bright light
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio
These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all..."
These lyrics nail it. This is what's going on as social technology bombards us all with instant visual and visceral content. Talk about getting lost in an echo chamber; we're caught up in sudden and unexpected events that take on lives of their own. Real-time social technology generates self-reinforcing feedback loops that are a powerful new force to be reckoned with in the world.
Social technology is that bubbling, brewing, flowing, growing, impossible to avoid mix of social media, mobile consumer devices like smartphones and tablet computers and all the apps that run on all those devices. And all this bubbling and brewing is made possible by the global cloud computing layer that now surrounds our planet.
This is going to be an interesting ride. And not just for politicians and protesters. This is going to be an interesting ride for business too.
Like it or not, approve of it or not, social technology is driving the world that companies operate in. And that means companies have to participate in order to remain relevant. That means companies have no real choice but to embrace social technology and learn to use it well. What alternative is there? How else will companies spread their messages and build relationships that grow their businesses?
I'm always amused when people tell me they can't watch a YouTube video or use Facebook or run a cloud-based app because it's against their company policy. I wonder how long that company policy is going to stay in place. And if it does stay in place, I wonder how long that company is going to be around.
Ironically, it was social technology like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube that spread the words and pictures that fueled the growth of the Arab Spring, and now it is social technology again spreading the words and pictures that are fueling mass protests in these same countries. It is ridiculously easy to make videos about anything from political protests to religious satire, and post it on YouTube, and use Facebook and Twitter to call people's attention to it. That's the way social technology works.
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