You could almost hear the brows furling across the Twitterverse the day Malcolm Gladwell’s “Small Change” article appeared on The New Yorker’s website Oct. 4. Many fired off a defiant comment without getting beyond the essay’s sub-heading, “Why the revolution will not be Tweeted.” The reaction rippled through Twitter in what many social media passionistas perhaps thought was evidence Gladwell was wrong. They had become activists against the popular author.

Unfortunate as it is, many of the neo-Gladwell haters never read the piece, nor did they see what he was trying to say. They are, after all, the 140-character set. I’ve yet to see anything Gladwell writes be less than five jump pages on the New Yorker site. He’s an essayist and author. The haters, comparatively, have technological Tourette Syndrome. Twitter front man Biz Stone even defended social networks in an Atlantic Monthly piece that, while positioned as a counterpoint, seemed whiny and defensive.

Malcolm Gladwell speaks at PopTech! 2008 confe...
Malcolm Gladwell. Image via Wikipedia

But even Stone missed the point. Gladwell was simply pointing out, in his well-researched and inquisitive style, that networks are systems of weak ties. Hierarchies are systems of strong ones. True revolution, true activism is life-or-death for all involved, not just one imprisoned Chinese writer or Wall Street financier’s girlfriend’s cell phone. Networks are phenomenal structures for disseminating information, but inefficient at calling people to true action. Gladwell’s point was that while networks are awesome at asking people to raise their hand to say they care, they don’t have the offline, reality check of asking people to take a bullet.

Networks are passive motivators. If it doesn’t cost me much time, money or energy, I’ll “Like” your cause on Facebook. I’ll retweet your plea to sign a petition. I’ll perhaps even donate a few bucks to clean up oily pelicans.

But weak ties won’t motivate people to stand in front of a moving tank, defy a government known to kill those that do or surrender a kidney for a complete stranger.

Gladwell’s tome wasn’t an attack on social networking. It was merely an attempt to bring a sense of reality to the over-inflated sense of import we give it. This isn’t to say social networks aren’t powerful or meaningful or cannot help facilitate revolution, activism and social change. They can. But they help facilitate it, not drive it.

Social media are communications channels, not power structures. The hierarchy of order that produced the civil rights movement may have been helped by social media, but it would have (and did) happen without it, too. If China is to become a democratic state one day, it won’t be because us Westerners pestered Beijing with Tweets of their injustices. It will be the result of an organization of citizens rally together and stand for their rights. Or worse, have to fight for them. Sure, Facebook messages may be the carrier pigeons, but carrier pigeons don’t win wars.

Similarly, weak ties are not responsible for movements in marketing. The Pepsi Refresh Project is coordinated through social media (the channel) but is a movement because the causes generate benefit to the off-line, real world. Without the Internet, it would still work. Maker’s Mark Ambassadors are members of a vibrant, engaged community that existed off-line before it ever had an online sandbox. Lego enthusiasts who meet virtually are weakly connected. The moment they meet and share the real experience, then social marketing takes roots.

I’ve long said at some point the pendulum will swing back and people will realize it’s the offline, face-to-face relationships that are meaningful. Brands that find ways to move their online (weak tie) communities offline (strong tie), are the ones that will win in the long run.

Malcolm Gladwell just took 4,350 more words to say it.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.nosenseoftime.org George G Smith Jr

    Thank you Jason!

    I've read so many reactions to Gladwell's piece and had your same view. I was starting to think I was the crazy one because I agreed with him.

    Great post, as usual.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, George. It's not easy for people to take off their passions/emotions

      for a second and look at the reality of the situation. Guess that's one

      reason I'm here. Appreciate you stopping by again.

    • http://www.bizflats.com/ Lofts Barcelona

       

      Some of these are pretty cool. If would respect the list
      more if it weren’t so mac centric however. Nice list either way…

  • Vince DeGeorge

    This is so true, but it's a deeper issue of general apathy (which isn't really the right word – twapathy?) that Twitter was built to feed. People feel they can sleep well at night because they used a hashtag, added a twibbon, or used a color in their avatar, but REAL activism is action.

    I'm not saying that people aren't willing, because there are a lot of terrific people doing “real” things, but they're in the minority I fear.

    People may point to social media and the impact on the last election. I'm not sure that social media and networking tools were necessary for that, but it didn't hurt… and maybe that's the point. Social media and networking are simply a tool for real networking – getting out and organizing in a group. However, when used as the FOCUS, these “tools” can have the opposite effect of inaction, where a tweet or a status becomes a substitute for real support.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen to that, Vince. Social media facilitates and helps, it's not the

      driver. Never has been, never will be.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=720486077 Andrew Coey

        Would like to respectfully add to this if you don't mind gents. I think word-of-mouth, ie 'buzz' is in effect a monster of its own accord, a veritable organic soldier that takes on a form all its own once it snowballs. No doubt the 'newspaper' once it spun into full swing became in itself a driver, such as a 'driver of consent' (as Chomsky may argue) or many other things.

        To cut it short, there are several examples of how something we have created in order to simply communicate has itself become an autonomous catalyst with its own independent ability to evolve things to new levels – similar to the human brain adding language into the mix! What SNS is doing and will show itself to be doing more and more in the near future (which I believe I alluded to in my above post here) is what I call “Evolition” which denotes the chosen/autonomous creation of direction and outward spiralling of an advanced species' “self-evolution”.

        Oh I do dislike putting the cat among the pigeons, but I place my confidence on what we will look back on in 20 years time – SNS is a driver of the most incredible sorts. Sad to say that this view is the more boring/predictable one…

  • http://twitter.com/deirdrereid Deirdre Reid, CAE

    I reacted and wrote about his Twitter piece too – http://ow.ly/2RTFt. Like you, I agreed with some of what he said but thought he assumed too much about social media and the people who use it. For example, he writes, “The evangelists of social media don’t understand this distinction; they seem to believe that a Facebook friend is the same as a real friend and that signing up for a donor registry in Silicon Valley today is activism in the same sense as sitting at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro in 1960.” Where does he get this idea that we don't understand that distinction. His tone and assumptions are what got my dander up.

    I also disliked how he dismissed weak ties without acknowledging how beneficial they can be, like you point out here. But like any good essay or post, Gladwell got us thinking, reacting and discussing, again, even a few weeks later. I like that.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Very true, Deirdre. Anyone who pushes the thinking is strong in my book. I

      didn't take his piece as a dismissal of weak ties, nor did I really disagree

      with his statement on the evangelists of social media. Yes, he could have

      used “many” or “most” to qualify it better, but 90% of my talks these days

      are refuting the Elysian Fields picture social media evangelists paint of

      what we do. And if you look at the reaction (Biz's for one) to Gladwell's

      piece, it proved Gladwell's point – the evangelists typically don't draw a

      distinction. They think Facebook is a place where you are intimately bonded

      with hundreds or thousands of people who will rush to the front lines of

      battle with you if you ask. Sorry, but that's not reality. The only people

      I'm connected to on Facebook who would join me in something vital? The high

      school and college friends I've known most of my life. The other connections

      (heavily weighted toward the online or weak type) would shrug it off.

      • http://twitter.com/deirdrereid Deirdre Reid, CAE

        I guess I'm ignoring that “Elysian Fields” picture because I think it's ridiculous and I wonder how many people espouse that because if a sucker believes them, they might get hired to hustle up those intimate relationships. Why do people think relationship building via social media is going to be any different at its core than relationship building in real life? Sigh.

        This reminds me of when I was a restaurant manager. I was pretty defensive about my profession because so many people only knew of managers who were unethical, lazy and just plain stupid about the business. It drove me nuts that the public's perception of my profession, and me, was based on those clowns. In the social media consultant profession, the good ones who get it have to overcome any perceptions perpetuated by the evangelist clowns who promise numbers and popularity and who will likely move on to the next big thing when their social media buzz wears off. Keep fighting the clowns, Jason!

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          I will. I think it's more of a case of the clowns not telling a complete

          story rather than telling an inaccurate one. The relationship building and

          hand holding, Kumbaya thing is certainly a part of what social media is

          about, but it's also very much about business when you get into the

          marketing aspect or brand side of things. To quote my friend Eric Brown, “If

          you're not doing it for a business purpose, its just a hobby.”

  • http://dfolkens.wordpress.com/ Dave Folkens

    I think this is a great post Jason and important thinking from Gladwell too. There was a study a year or so ago that also looked at the capacity for people to manage relationships. That particular piece concluded that we're capable of successfully having about 150 real “friends” versus the hundreds to thousands that many people maintain online. There is tremendous value in social media and the networks it creates. I certainly have very good friends and business contacts that were generated initially online via social media. However, I think we need to also be realistic in that there is a big difference between someone you call a true friend versus someone that is willing to trade 140 characters…if they happen to be online then….and happen to see it.

    This obviously extends to brands and causes as well. Online engagement for those categories is great but it takes a core group of passionate advocates to build the foundation for you versus 1,000 people that can click a link that costs them little or nothing.

    I think the negative reaction is actually a great example of some of the limits of social media. If too many people rush to judge based on keywords or reputations, it's easy to miss the actual point of the discussion.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good points, Dave. I dont' 100-percent buy the Dunbar number of

      relationships, particularly when it comes to brands, but there's certainly

      some validity to the concept of scale and social relationships. There's a

      middle ground that Dunbar misses … people want connections to brands that

      aren't necessarily personal relationships, meaning they'd be beyond the 150

      limit. And brands have always had relationships with millions of people if

      they market right. But all of this is good discussion that will lead us to

      some good smarts down the road! Thanks for adding to it.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Dave, the so-called “Dunbar Number” has been horribly misquoted and misapplied over the years.

      That “150” refers to the number of people who can simultaneously know each other and how they all inter-relate. (And it's just a theory, too.)

      It is not indicative of how many people YOU can know or meaningfully connect with, however it is one might define that anyway. It's a theory about the upper limit of people knowing everyone else in a closed community.

      • http://dfolkens.wordpress.com/ Dave Folkens

        Thanks for the added clarification Ike. I do appreciate it. I think there is a limit of how far you can go while maintaining a high level of connectivity but will take a closer look at the study itself too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=720486077 Andrew Coey

    All I've really heard so far from everyone is re-hashing and repeating what Gladwell said, almost like everyone's simply thinking out loud as it sinks in for themselves what the point is. I hope we can move on from reconfirmation of what was said and do some forward-looking formal operational thinking about the implications etc.

    How about the following positions on the issue – a criticism of both sides? ….

    1.
    Perhaps there is no more standing in front of tanks or dangerous sit-ins in the future we are building?
    Perhaps this is not the era or century of violence and extremism?
    Perhaps ''activisim'' as a term will need to be done away with or expanded/extended/amended – ie perhaps collective action by millions in a small dosage IS activism, if we look at the total investment as gestalt 'blob' of effort. Call it ''neo-activism'', or call the old version ''retro-activism'' ?! :)

    2. Perhaps our 'sns' is what the 'newspaper' or 'lunch lady' was 50 years ago, just the constant informer, a form of media that keeps you informed, and could but does not necessarily always lead groups to action. And the sns phenomena is like the ''people's newspaper'' with an extra large free advertising Personals section! An attitudinal newspaper!

    I would have to say that I believe conventional ''activism'' can result at any time in almost any era, in any place, whenever injustice or the need for change builds enough momentum – regardless of the media used to communicate it or build such momentum.

    I have no doubt that if China's pollution clouds began killing hundreds of thousands of people ever week, we would form solid, organised, structured groups and escalate to the physical/danger level, I would welcome anyone disagreeing on this, and would suggest that we all accept this could be exacerbated by any number of media, and that perhaps sns could lead to physical risk and loss of life being avoided, yet deliver the required result – would that not be successful activism? Why should activism require testosterone, muscle-flexing and the ultimate kamikaze commitment of just a few to hold any weight or be called 'activism' – I mean look at the WORD! :)

    In sum;
    SNS consensus and 'semi-soft' activism and opinion waves could be a way of humanity fending off issues at the attitudinal stage before they get past the point of no return. They could have a peace-seeking lunch lady effect of organically maintaining harmony and succinct expression of people's attitudes, thus ensuring things never get to the silly 'ape vs ape' stand-offs we've been raised on.

    Some would say that activism is a childish, primate-like option that is equally evil on both sides due to an unfortunate situation that's resulted from our poor collective management of our species.

    It would be great everyone if you could post YOUR thoughts, ie take some time to think and form some first! It would be great to extend on this topic, there is much to be gained here …

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    Turns out that Social Media IS nothing more than Snake Oil.

    Snake Oil is not an elixir that cures anything, but it is a handy lubricant. And that's what Social Media is — a lubricant that reduces the friction of transferring ideas. The Kumbaya Chorus curses Gladwell for having the gall to point out the difference between motor oil and a combustion engine.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      What you said. Heh.

  • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

    There's only one thing that I can't quite agree with in your article, Jason, and it's the use of the word hierarchy. Hierarchy is one way of creating (or really enforcing) strong ties, but that's typically in the realm of business or organizations. I think it works differently amongst friends and family. Are friends ranked in hierarchical order? Perhaps if you look at it from the point of view of the strength of the tie, but it just doesn't seem to fit as an intellectual construct.

    Just a minor point: maybe I just don't like to think of non-work relationships within the context of hierarchies.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I see where you're coming from, Mark, but I think in terms of social

      activism and real change, hierarchy does exist among informal connections.

      Gladwell's piece used the civil rights movement as an example, but when you

      look at the successful movements of social sets over the years, there was

      always structure, even if it was just a figure head that led the charge

      (Ghandi). And I'd be if you looked closer, you'd find that hierarchy in

      place.

      • http://thoughtwrestling.com/blog Mark Dykeman

        Sure, I'd be willing to concede there's hierarchy within social activism, etc. Since that's your focus in this article, makes sense.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Good points, Dave. I dont' 100-percent buy the Dunbar number of

    relationships, particularly when it comes to brands, but there's certainly

    some validity to the concept of scale and social relationships. There's a

    middle ground that Dunbar misses … people want connections to brands that

    aren't necessarily personal relationships, meaning they'd be beyond the 150

    limit. And brands have always had relationships with millions of people if

    they market right. But all of this is good discussion that will lead us to

    some good smarts down the road! Thanks for adding to it.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    What you said. Heh.

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    The F2F relationships are definitely most meaningful. In fact, to Vince's point, I think you could argue that what worked well in the past election was the ability to use social media to allow constituents to form their own online communities that some then took offline in the form of in-person rallies, discussions, events.

    You could also have along discussion here about how we should measure campaigns, movements by action and then what should be defined as action. Liking a FB page is at best, a passive action. Donating, sharing, purchasing, blogging about a topic are more active promotions of a cause. But still, none are as active as coming together with a community of people offline, whether it's to have coffee or make a political statement. Thanks, Jason.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Love the point on Measurement. Off-line execution should be an entry point

      on our reports!

  • Bill

    I've always thought the Gladwell is brilliant. He has a unique ability to see beyond the buzz and current thinking and see the deeper meaning and interconnections of how things, people and society work (or don't work).

    The revolution will be tweeted, it will be posted on Facebook, blogs, cell phone videos, text messages, and old fashioned phone calls. But that is not the revolution, as everyone has said, that is just the noise surrounding it, supporting or opposing it, and mostly just watching it.

    Activists can use social media to promote their cause or movement, but that does not mean 500 million Facebook users or a few hundred million tweeps will take to the street because of the outrage they saw or read.

    Haiti is a good example. Twitter campaigns raised some money quickly, maybe even a few extra people showed up as a result of the discussion on social networks. But the real action in Haiti happened as a result of people physically doing something. Celebrities that went there, news crews on the ground and embedded in it, and non-profits that were working there long before the earthquake. I suspect actual word of mouth was more effective than social networks for Haiti. What is really interesting is that the lasting social change and activism in Haiti is a result of the physical involvement and presence, not the social networks.

    I love social media and I absolutely know it is changing our society, but in the end it is just a tool, another device, and something useful for us to use. The telephone, radio, and TV did not replace activism and physical involvement by real people, although it has enabled it to be broader and faster. Ditto for social networks.

    Love the post and the discussion from all…
    Bill Grunau

  • partyaficionado

    Event specialist says what?! Social marketing is NOT NEW! Social networks are just a new way of connecting people with common interest. See Auto shows, conferences, employee meetings, trade shows, heck.. Mary Kay and Avon if you really want to go back. Doing business with people you share a social experience with is the oldest profession in the world.

    Face to face or online, we want to “Like” the people we give our money to.

    My point? The revolution happened years ago. Social networks are simply waking people up to it. Don't believe me? The pink Cadillac is the original 100,000 followers. (Google it kids).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Pretty sure that was in English. Will have to ponder on it, tho. Heh.

      Thanks!

      • partyaficionado

        Was I not writing clear English? The beginning was an homage to Wayne's World. (I thought I was amongst fellow geeks) The rest is the perspective on Social Media from an event professional. Sorry if that wasn't clear. :(

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          All in good fun. Needed a reminder on Wayne's World I guess. Good stuff!

  • http://itsjosipnotjoseph.com/ Josip

    Great post! Being an avid Gladwell reader, I'm crossed on his viewpoint here. I do agree that there is much activity online that doesn't reflect in-person activity. Such as, tweeting or “liking” a cause but not actually going out into the real-world and being active in the same light.

    However, on the flip-side of his argument, the real and online worlds are blending and blurring, and are increasingly becoming one. So to say that social media in fact hasn't revolutionized anything is a mistake, as twitter was a common grounds for Iranian student protesters about a year back who effectively used Twitter to both push online and offline movements.

    The reality of the situation is that social media is this in relative infancy. Yes it's been around for some time, but it's only truly become a normal aspect to everyday life in recent years. I still think we are years away from understanding the true impacts of all of this.

    So, yes I do agree with Gladwell when he states online activity does not represent offline activity when it comes to social movements because at this moment in time there are more online supporters than those that reciprocate in the real world. However, it would be a serious mistake not to consider the growing number of movements that have started online and moved into the real-world. This is something that will undeniably grow as the online world will eventually just become as real as the real-world appears today.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Show me where Iranian student protesters even Tweeted, much less sparked

      social change. Westerners bemoaned the situation of Iranian students, but A)

      Nothing changed and, as Gladwell pointed out, B) Nothing having to do with

      Twitter was even posted in a language Iranians even speak. I'll give you

      they pushed some online conversation, but what offline movement? Iran is

      still Iran. We wanted something to change. We talked about it online, but in

      the end no one did anything. Weak ties. That's life.

      Of course, I wasn't on the ground in Iran, either, so I'm only speaking from

      a limited perspective. I can always be proven wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/intersection1 Mark Smiciklas

    Great post and discussion thread.

    I had a chance to see Gladwell speak on the same topic at the F5 conference this spring in Vancouver. The crowd seemed slightly stunned by what he was saying – it was actually pretty entertaining to see the reactions and hear the whispers :)

    Two themes from his keynote really resonated with me – the idea that bridging social technology and face-to-face interaction is essential in order to build stronger ties; and, to be truly impactful, a cultural change needs to take place in the way we do business (social business).

    For a different perspective, I thought you might like to see a few visual interpretations of the themes he discussed: http://www.intersectionconsulting.com/blog/?p=580

    Regards,

    Mark.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesomeness

  • http://www.arholota.com Ryan Holota

    I agree that in-person relationships are the most powerful, but I think Gladwell was too dismissive of social networking as a means to create those relationships. I meet a lot of my Twitter friends in person – I make a habit out of it whenever possible. Twitter exposes me to new people that actually strengthen and expand my 'real' social network, helping me be more effective in the real world.

    I'm not exactly shy, but I'm not really an in-your-face person either. For me, meeting influential people is much easier over social networks, and I can then leverage that relationship into something bigger if I want to.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I hear ya, but I also think we're giving too much credit to the weak ties in

      facilitating the strong ones. Yes, social media can build weak ties that we

      migrate to strong after in-person experiences, etc. Yes, social media can

      draw people into a movement or even an activist role in a movement. But the

      medium is just that … the medium. It's the movement itself that drives the

      activity. Twitter is just a channel between multiple points. It's what one

      of those points is saying … which it says on and offline … that drives

      action.

  • faybiz

    I dare that to pretend that just because it hasn't created strong ties doesn't mean it cant.
    Obama clearly took advantage of such weak ties: http://videos.webpronews.com/2009/12/22/how-data-and-new-media-helped-obama-win/

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Obama took advantage of a nation mired in Republican bureaucratic mess, a

      crappy economy, a war and thirsty for change, wrapped it up in a package of

      hope that even had a minority candidate on the cover and inspired us. How

      the message got to people has nothing to do with why he won. In my opinion.

      • faybiz

        Jason, you are framing it ONLY in the general election… he was doing it WELL before… most people (dems) didn't think he would be the nominee until he was…
        in terms of the general election, the issues and the candidates were most definitely the deciding factor

  • http://twitter.com/ramseym Ramsey Mohsen

    Great post Jason.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks. Nice to strike a nerve from time to time. Heh.

  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Jason,
    Great post, as always. I didn't see the article, but now I'll have to track it down. I think what you're saying is true, that it's strong relationships that cause real change, not weak ones on Twitter.

    But I think social media certainly helps grease the wheels to encourage strong ties as well as weak ones. The Pepsi Refresh project is very successful largely due to social media, and a mix of weak ties and strong ties. Yeah, it could happen without social media, but having it made the process a whole lot cheaper and widespread for Pepsi.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Patrick. You'll enjoy the piece. Very well written.

  • jeffespo

    You know the headline is what drew me into the story. At first, I thought it was going to be another social media is a fad article, but at about page two I was floored by the article. You know my favorite part was getting to the end and seeing the commenters who only read the headline. It made all of us in the space look like a bunch of doofs and helped make the article's point.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      True dat, Jeff. One of the reasons I wrote this. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Glad to have a fellow Gladwell supporter out here. I wrote my response here and even took it a step further — Is social media creating a generation of cowards? http://bit.ly/bm0c0l Some interesitng commentary too.

    Like you, I was wondering if the social media sycophants even read Gladwell's article. I thought it was fair. Glad we're on the same side on this one but I'm not surprised. Thanks!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the link Mark. Funny how often we think alike. ;-)

  • http://claritystrategic.com/ Ron Graham

    I did the best I could to go through all the comments here before I responded. Here we have a couple dozen people saying in different ways that they agree with Gladwell, and that's cool.

    BUT. There's no “completely right” or “completely wrong” jumpin' off here. Gladwell still makes a pretty fundamental mistake, that most of you writing here are repeating.

    Via social media, a movement can reach untold thousands and can get a large number of them to contribute a drop in the bucket. That much everybody agrees with. But what it also does is find that handful who await motivation to do something much more significant. The ones who haven't been touched by the need, yet when they are they will stand in front of a tank if necessary. And yes, you must reach thousands with a little to touch the few who will give back a lot. Even Gladwell's historical examples depended on the media of the moment to really gain traction.

    You will see this, I think, with the bullying issue. Here we see on Facebook and Twitter maybe nameless thousands of people who are saying “this has gotta stop! Someone needs to do something!” And among them, pretty soon, the couple dozen who WILL do something. Heck, brothers and sisters, I'm one. I didn't give the issue a second thought three months ago. Now I'm working an attention drive and preparing materials to help people cope with bullying. I'll see a thousand more complain about the issue – and three or four more get out of their seats.

    Gladwell didn't think that was worth going into, and that was his mistake. Other than that, he made many good points worth chewing over.

    • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

      Ron, good point. That's why I added my comment that social media assists both loose and strong ties. Everyone acts like social media either is the end all of everything, or means little. But as usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. It certainly plays a role, but doesn't make or break an issue.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Ron. Thanks for that perspective.

  • http://www.conversationagent.com ConversationAgent

    It's both, Jason. This is the beginning of why: “is a movement because the causes generate benefit to the off-line, real world”, not the entire story. I have a lot more to say on the subject, of course. And I hope to be able to present the case in my whole life's work available at some point in the near future ;)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Looking forward to it!

  • vinodn

    Well Said Jason, I think the whole thing of people going against Gladwell is the essence of the media that Gladwell was pointing out, You can get a lot of people rally behind something because they dont loose anything except a fraction of a second to click. But real change comes from the guy who stands and says enough is enough.

  • http://www.coydavidson.com/ coydavidson

    “Brands that find ways to move their online (weak tie) communities offline (strong tie), are the ones that will win in the long run.” Couldn't agree more with that statement. All my social media connections that have turned into clients, I have seen the whites of their eyes. Great Post Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Love the whites of their eyes reference. May steal that (with appropriate credit of course.)

  • http://www.buzzshift.com/ Eddy Badrina

    Jason – I was reading this piece “Campaigns not buying social media” on Politico (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/44168.html), and realized that this is a current case study on Gladwell's argument. The political operatives are in essence saying that weak ties and networks don't even necessarily result in people going to the polls and voting, much less standing in front of a tank, and that their money is better spent elsewhere. I used to be in politics, and one of my campaign friends recently said to me, “A Like on Facebook is WAY different than a vote at the polls. If you can find a way to consistently bridge those two, let me know.” The question is: how do we, or can we, integrate SM into awareness, conversation, resolve, and physical action?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great metaphor, Eddy. I love how everyone wants to credit social media with

      Obama's election, too. Like blogging and Twitter posts made people go vote.

      It's the notion of change and hope that made people go vote. If someone had

      inspired you in a coffee shop chat or a phone call, it produces the same

      effect. Social media is the medium, not the motivation.

      Yep, social media can help spread great ideas farther and faster, but it's

      the idea that moves people.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • faybiz

        Jason, it's a tool. OF COURSE a campaign AD isn't going to make someone vote. But the social media TOOLS that were used to GREAT effect coupled with OLD SCHOOL stuff meant that Obama was able to CREATE actual voters that hadn't voted before. Ask HIS campign managers if they think it meant nothing

  • Stephen

    The revolution (or Revolution) won't be tweeted because once things get bad enough and the people in flyover country pull out their guns and march on the State House the government will pull the plug on the Internet. And probably the cell phone networks.

    Which will, of course, be the tipping point for the rest of the weakly-connected to get out of their chairs and join the revolutionaries in the streets and at the barricades.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Beautiful picture. Love the Tipping Point usage! Heh.

  • Jzingsheim

    Great post–and I agree. Sarah Wurrey and I discussed this on the last Roundtable podcast we did, and I boiled Gladwell's argument down to when it comes to risking life or property, it will be a strong tie that compels action.

  • http://www.wickedinnovations.com/ Jeorge Peter

    Gladwell discussed some good points regarding how social network has been not so good effect on people, maybe we too must be cautious of this.

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  • Joe Rigo

    Excellent piece.

  • http://www.jeffgibbard.com/ JGibbard

    I like your post better than Gladwell's. I think your adoption of Twitter has taught you brevity. I wrote a response piece today to Gladwell entitled: Big Change: Why the Revolution is Already Being Tweeted. http://ow.ly/30Thx

    Curious to hear your thoughts.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesome! Will go see it ASAP!

  • http://www.tigertwotiger.co.uk tigertwo

    Hear, hear Jason. Thank you for your well written and argued article. I thought Gladwell's article was right on the mark and yours has backed it up. Hype is easy, but accepting reality can be tough. I think social media has changed the way we communicate and expanded our networks beyond all belief, but it is not the be all and end all of human interaction and I do get tired sometimes of the people who say it is. It is a tool (albeit an amazing one). It is not a revolution, nor is it an excuse to forget that there is a living, breathing human on the other side of the screen.

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  • scmurley

    Evgeny Morozov said much the same in book form several years ago – “The Net Delusion.” Gladwell’s counterintuitive take isn’t that original.

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