While traditional media is top/down and vertical, with authorities on high telling us what to buy, think, and be, social media is flat, horizontal. We tell each other what to buy, think and be.
A recent poll of Millennials notes that over 70% prefer to make brand purchase decisions by consensus with their peers. They are unswayed by authority figures, including celebrities. (Not surprisingly, when celebrities endorse products Ms feel the celeb has ‘sold out’.)
What’s surprising is how quickly traditional hierarchies are flattening. Music retailers? Gone. Newspapers? Gone. Movie retailers? Disappearing. Publishers? Revisioning themselves. Television? Moving online. Banking? Moving online. And, as Egypt and other Arab state uprising are demonstrating, even politics is moving into the cloud cover.
Our first taste of it was when Obama raised half a billion dollars online through the social network. When it was revealed that Hilary Clinton had tossed in her own personal millions, it was a statement of social net worth that communicated which candidate was truly of and by the people. (Wikipedia recently followed suit with its webfolk and raised $16 million.)
The recent Activism+Media+Politics Summit discussed that Egypt uprising’s success illustrates how causes can thrive without a single charistmatic leader. There is no Ghandi, no Martin Luther King, no Lech Walesa, no Queen Bee controlling the hive. The hive can swarm anywhere.
The flattening world is not simple theory, it has become a social, economic, and political reality.
The crowd has gained control. Aliens from outer space would observe a planet with a digital thoughtstream pulsing from continent to continent. The leader is in cyberspace. Who knows where it will take us next?