Social Media: Power to the People?

Politics and New Media From BlogWorld

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The keynote at BlogWorld this morning was an interesting one, looking at how new media has changed the landscape of politics. Mark Penn, former Chief Messaging Architect for President Clinton and Karen Hughes, former Chief Messaging Architect for President Bush discussed the power blogs and social media have had on shifting elections and public perception. 

Penn discussed a surge in independence and how we are no longer living in a "red and blue" country. We’re seeing the parties themselves dividing and new movements emerging among both Democrats and Republicans. "There’s a wave of discontent," says Penn. 

To say the least. 

Penn and Hughes

Blogging and social media have given the people a voice. As more and more people have turned to new media, more have been able to consume a wider range of content and opinions, respond to it (in a way that others can also see and possibly benefit from), and spread it. Because of these things, there is more power in the hands of the people than ever. Anyone can go online and say anything they want and be heard. 

That’s a very powerful thing, but as Hughes points out, it’s not without its negatives – primarily, the incredibly quick spreading of false information. "Speed is essential," she says, adding that you have to jump in because things get reported and repeated. 

On the flip side, however, new media has enabled instant response. It’s essentially reputation management. Brands face this all the time. When it comes to politics, there will always be plenty more people to stand up for the brand (or bash it). But again, that’s the voice of the people.  News consumers have more viewpoints to look at to help them  form their own. 

Other concerns Hughes voices include anonymity and the dehumanization of people via the technology. 

One interesting comment from the audience: social media is just enabling the spread of propaganda on both sides. What do you think?

Another interesting audience comment: "You’re not pundits anymore. We get our news from sources we trust."

Social Media: Power to the People?
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  • http://smallbusiness.uprinting.com Mir

    “Anyone can go online and say anything they want and be heard.”

    Yes, but by how many people?

    Social networking sites are an added avenue to promote, but getting your message to people is still no easy feat. The most intriguing marketing aspects of social media are that it is direct and much cheaper than other forms of marketing.

  • Jack5

    Sure, this is all well and good, but the one thing that I’ve never seen addressed properly or accurately is how people perceive information in different ways for different reasons – how they grew up, education level, belief system, etc. To make the point, “we get our news from sources we trust” is far too vague a statement to be blanketed across all people. After all, people view “trust” in different ways and “trust” means different things to different people.

    The social revolution is fundamentally flawed in that it’s based for off of jealousy, entitlement, an anti-authority sentiment, and a desire top feel important, be included, and be heard. Of course that’s fun and infectious when you’ve always been marginalized. This is what’s fueling the social movement, a “we deserve this” mentality. Yet people are failing to realize that while everyone may deserve the same level of opportunity, not everyone deserves the same level of validity, credibility, trust, etc, just because they have an opinion.

    It’s a house of cards waiting to be toppled. Don’t believe me? Next time there’s a twitter hoax, keep an eye on who reports it and then ask yourself why you trusted their information.

    • Chris Crum

      I don’t see it toppling. Not as a whole anyway. It’s become too big a part of society and news culture. Those who wish to attain credibility have to be careful about their own sources of information before reporting. When hoaxes are uncovered, that will only help news consumers evaluate how much they trust the sources that reported it. The circumstances and style in which it was reported can also come into play. It’s different, for example, to report: “this is a fact” as opposed to “According to an unconfirmed report from so-and-so, this is what is happening”.

      People do have to become better educated consumers of news (I think I got that from Pete Cashmore). Sources that should not be trusted, can more easily be exposed because of new media too.

  • Mighty Doctor

    Another interesting audience comment: “You’re not pundits anymore. We get our news from sources we trust.”

    A well versed member of the audience then :-)

  • http://www.copywriter-ac.com AlanC

    So in other words this pile of words comes down to “it’s bad that people online can be anon’.”

    No, it’s a good thing.

    As for ‘discontent’, of course. People have always been less than content with the local major mafia calling itself the ‘government’, be it in Spain, Zimbabwe or the US of A.

    Any entity that derives it’s well-being via theft, threats and force (“the political means”) will sow discontent. All that’s changed is instead of wondering “Surely I’m not the only one?”, people are finding that no, they’re not. There’s millions of the discontented, the ripped-off, the abused, the downtrodden and generally ‘governed’.

    Right now people are going through the exploratory process of wondering what politics would be better. In time they’ll figure out the truth – “virtually none”.

    Consider these simple points:

    Government never gives the people anything it didn’t steal from them in the first place (including the stealth tax of inflation – and people are even wising up to that one)

    No system of checks and balances against governmental abuse of power works. The most ambitious was the American Constitution, which can be considered a proven failure, only invoked with it suits politicians, routinely ignored when it doesn’t.

    If the people of a given terroritory want something, and they can afford it, then there’s no reason that something cannot be supplied by the free market, at lower cost and with better service (the economic means).

    Throughout man’s history we have had a parasite class claiming that we “need” them. First it was the religious and superstition types, claiming we needed them to communicate with and please the various gods, spooks, spirits etc. Although this element still holds considerable power, on the whole humanity has shaken off our beliefs in “needing” this particular parasite class of people.

    Next came monarchy, Kings and such, claiming all kinds of powers, ‘divine rights’ and again the claim that we ‘needed’ them. With just a few barely clinging on, mostly for entertainment value, we’ve managed to shake them off.

    Now we have the political class, the latest bunch of parasites claiming we need them. For what?

    Whatever list you come up with, try giving REAL thought, make an effort, to figuring out how the free market could supply it instead. Hint – insurance companies would play a major role.

    If you can’t find enough people to chip in for a thermanuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, then you probably don’t need one.


  • http://www.eshkol.com Giora Eshkol

    I was on facebook 3 years
    have over 1500 friends which most of them asked my friendship
    I’m an artist showing my art
    and in touch with family and real life friends too
    I got hundreds of comments on my art
    on day
    no warning
    no way to contest
    and a very vague explanation without a way to respond
    Facebook proved to me it can not be trusted!!!!

    • http://ronaldredito.org/blog Ronald Redito

      I share the same fate. I had Facebook since 2004 and they disabled it accusing me of threat. Well hey, that’s my personal account! You can’t even distinguish what’s legitimate and fake.

      NO wonder why there are now fake accounts proliferating because of the stupid move.

  • http://www.shapirit.biz ????? ??????, ?????? ??????

    In one word…NO!

    It is not new that for every thing that concers most of the population the gvrmnt makes a poll for this and a poll for that, they read technical data an so but at the end they do whatever is good for their pocket.

    It only gives the people THE ILLUSION that their voice can be heard.

  • http://ronaldredito.org/blog Ronald Redito

    This social media thing has given the people the voice they deserve. Currently, we can debate on issues using Facebook, Twitter and blogs. In the Philippines, we can even send our messages to the president through his website.

    However, social media is also used by propagandist to make their bet win elections. No wonder why the current President in the Philippines won without even a single accomplishment in his 12 years term as member of the legislative. Imagine 9 years as congressman and 3 years as senator, no laws passed yet he won!

    Social media and main stream media made him won but in a negative sense.

    • AlanC

      Why does passing more laws make someone a better ruler over us plebs?

      In the US, more than 70,000 pages of fine print is passed each year into “law”. Remember that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”.

      You should also remember another important point – “You cannot rule over innocent people”. Only by creating a spider’s web of laws can you be sure that anyone and everyone is guilty of at least one crime a day. Actually there’s a book entitled “Three Felonies A Day” and at the current rate it will probably be 4 soon.

      Every single law passed is potentially enforced by lethal force. Every single one. So by wanting even more laws you’re merely placing even more people at risk, of breaking a law, being forcibly arrested, even killed if resisting. For what? To impose YOUR opinion upon your fellow man?

      If this guy passed no new laws in all that time then he deserves to be re-elected. If only the rest would follow such a great example!

    • http://www.realnobile.com/ Barra

      Member of legislative with for 12 years and not a single laws passed?
      It’s a blessing, he has my vote 😉
      Contrast this with a politician that pass all kind of s**t suffocating people with regulations and lack of choices.
      What you have to evaluate is whether he oppose bad legislation and endorse the good ones (few are).
      Wise up to help us all.

  • http://www.the-system.org The System

    You should have seen how social was used by all parties and the media during the recent red blue fight in the UK – and I can tell you blue and yellow do not make Green!
    He who shouts loudest wins- period as you say in the US.
    The fact that the blues bought the front page of Youtube.com in the UK for the day of the election may have just swung it!
    Power to the crowd!

  • http://www.unaico.com/pavli Milos

    New media and mostly the internet have given the chance to the people to interact in greater numbers.Now,an individual can influence people that are further away from him in a social network.Your opinion can reach people that live in a part of the planet that you never have visited and maybe never will.That couldn’t be possible without the web.So,web 2.0 is a powerfull new way of doing things online.We see that great companies already take advantage of the power of social media.Let’s just wait and see how it is going to develop.A new era has arrived and the changes lie in front of us…

    • http://www.the-system.org Social Media Marketing System

      It is true individuals can now be heard and influence outcomes! only the other day I introduced a new word ‘buzz amplification’ into a City of London presentation and within 24 hours a lot of people i’ve never met are using the expression to define whatever they understand it to mean!
      But don’t sit back and wait for social media to ‘develop’ …….Shape it!
      The big multinationals are catching on fast!! 😉

  • http://actualeurope.info/ Rove Monteux

    Well, by my own views experiencing it from the start is that the gold-digging cowboys starte moving into it and started getting degrees into “Social Marketing”, “Online Marketing”, the big Social Networks started gold-digging for greed as well when they dotn need it, and the fact that anything you put up about yourself now might be used “against” you can be turned into demographic or targeted marketing, puts me off them networks all together.

    If it is to give power to the people, it needs to be, the network needs to be

    1. Open Sourced, marketing and corporation free.

    2. The owner and/or administrator need to have no knowledge of who is there, while at the same time actively figth spam, as reported by users.

    3. Be secure, so reliable.

    Otherwise, it is just like Facebook, that makes me feel like filling out a Marketing-Research form, other than let me express myself.

    • http://actualeurope.info/ Rove Monteux

      And then the hyprocrit owners of such networks do a Bill Gates-like style of donating millions to a miscellaneous charity, that nobody heard about and have no idea if that money is actually going to the people in need, or up someone’s pocket, to clear up their images as “not-greedy”, which is nothing but an investment in their own image and thus as consequence popularity, and their own companies popularity.

      Marketing can be well evil, so why not drop it, make “normal” money with “normal” not “specialized” advertisement, and let it grow naturally, as people feel like it should, and actually DO give power to the people, rather fool them into a targetted marketing model masqueraded as “social” for the sake of their own greed ?

  • http://www.thelastamericannewspaper.com Jack Holland

    I find it particularily interesting that more and more Powerful pundits or “apologists” for the mainstream media are beginning to speak out on this subject. It is my view that this is due to the fact that they feel the message is being hijacked by others that may not necessarily hold their “canned” view of the world.

    Something much more sinister is also surfacing at the same time, that being what I term as “The Jefferson Hypothesis” which goes as follows: Should we be willing to give up some of our Liberty and Freedom(First Amendment Rights) for the sake of National Security and getting along with others? Fareed Zakaria is the latest to pose this question. It is being asked more and more often which in my book means that it is being parlayed around Washington think tanks as a policy question which may one day translate into the squashing of the free flow of information. Once something like this gets let out of the genie’s bottle in Washington and the wrong people start running with it, oppressive legislation will soon follow.

    Much of this has to do with the fact that corruption in American politics are now being laid stark naked for the world to see and many of the older politicians in particular are having a hard time dealing with it. My grandfather once told be that there were pockets of corruption all over this country; if he were alive today, I think he might say, “there are pockets of integrity all over this country.” For what the internet has exposed is the fact that our corruption has been written into the lawbooks and has been here all along, it is just now with the acceleration of information that more citizens have become privy to this fact, and many are disturbed by what they see. This scares the bejezzus out a few powerful folks up in Washington. Their reaction is to stomp out the medium of information exchange, thus the tiered Internet structure where it will cost more for independent media outlets to get their message across and they will lose audiences as fewer people can afford the bandwidth necessary to deliver the message.

    With social media, new alliances are able to be formed, which in my opinion is healthy for our democracy. Perhaps it is really time to move beyond a two party system, and I believe in the next Presidential round, this could very well happen if the Congressmen in the November 2010 election fail to move the country in the right direction.

  • http://www.reactorr.com reactorr

    Self publishing has certainly changed things, and due diligence is more necessary than ever. It’s too easy to retweet or similar, so even credibility and trust still require fact checking. Since its so easy to share, trends and info need to be taken with a grain of salt. This is probably what keeps journalism alive. It’s typically a credible resource, where blogs aren’t always reliable.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/dame+scribe Gin

    I find there are writers online that write content for genuine businesses. I don’t think these businesses would allow for disinformation but controversy does bring traffic and may make people think and yes, cause a social movement towards implementing a change.

  • http://www.boatinsurancedirect.co.uk rups

    social media is very powerful at getting your message out fast & cheap – but how effective is it really?

  • http://www.themarketershack.net LloydStClair

    i think it’s not really going to work .. anytime or until the world ends ..




  • http://www.kwatadeal.com Chris

    Social media gives people more control of where to get information and what to trust to be the truth. People will not just listen to you because you have said something. But you have to gradually win their trust. Then you may have a chance of getting their ears. Not every tom, dick or harry will be heard. You have got to be a “somebody”.

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