Have We Lost All Control?

I don’t know Charlene Li. I can’t truly guess who she is as a person or what she’s really like. But I was fortunate enough to see her speak at Search Engine Strategies San Jose a couple weeks ago.

If I had to guess, I’d say she’s an analytic-type of person. She didn’t strike me as someone who was flamboyant or over-exaggerated. She seems like a person who tells it like it is, matter-of-factly.

So, when she said, “In the future, everyone is a marketer. The time where you control the message has come and gone,” I was shocked.

This sounds like the kind of apocalyptic extremist talk I’d say, not something that came out of the mouth of an analyst.

I’m always looking for the shock factor in my speeches. I recently told a group of 100 people that if I had a choice of selling Gutenberg’s printing presses or selling social media, I’d sell social media every time. “Social media is the greatest media revolution in the history of humanity,” is what I like to say.

But Charlene isn’t that kind of person. She’s a straight shooter.

“The time where you control the message has come and gone.”

That’s heavy.

It’s also true.

In 2005, Thomas Friedman wrote “The World Is Flat.” He was describing a flattening of the global economic market. This is a pivotal book that describes precisely what has been happening in the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Jumping ahead four years, this flattening continues at a fierce pace.

Twitter, specifically, has pushed this flattening to even greater extremes. As Clay Shirky described at his keynote at SES San Jose, we’re witnessing, for the first time, a medium that allows “the many to communicate with the many.” This has never been possible before.

We see it all the time now: Iran, “Bruno,” and most recently “District 9.” These are a couple examples of the power of Twitter that have jumped out at me recently.

I bring this up because if you ever want a sell-out business event right now, make it about social media. Every time I speak about social media it’s to a standing-room-only crowd.

I get a sense that the crowds are there out of fear and curiosity. I don’t usually feel like they are there because they are super-excited about this “social media revolution.”

I feel like they’re there because social media is like a freight train heading right for them. Or they’re there to validate their beliefs that social media is a fad or “not for them.”

I bring it up to you because: “The time where you control the message has come and gone.”

That is the fact. You can participate in the message. You can pay for your message to go out. But you can’t control the message like you used to.

So, instead of getting run over by the freight train, jump on board. The next time you have a promotion, ask yourself what you can do to get people talking about it.

Your concern shouldn’t be about what they say. You just want them to say something.

I’ve been involved with promotions where the marketing director has scoured each and every blog post about the promotion. Virtually every posting of the promotion had something unacceptable in it. The blogger didn’t say this right. They forgot to mention that. They can’t legally say such and which.

That kind of micromanagement is gone. You have to stop that kind of thinking.

“The time where you control the message has come and gone.”

I’m not saying this as some kind of social media zealot. I’m telling you this because it’s the truth.

Send this to your brand managers. Send this to your public relations people. Send this to your attorneys.

This is the world we live in.

You aren’t in control any more.

The people are in control.

Accept it and move on.

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