Once upon a time ideas were spread by word of mouth only. Later the human race learnt how to write and ideas could be etched in stone and various other materials so they could be seen by many. With time these ideas could be transported vast distances, shared with other people, and with the combination of word of mouth, pamphlets, newspapers and books they took hold and shaped societies from those ideas.
Fast forward to the dawn of the technological era; the same ideas and values could be spread throughout the world via radio, TV and later the internet. The internet, through which I am now communicating with you, has meant that anyone’s ideas can instantly be shared in real time. So much so that we (often) no longer write a letter to then wait for that idea to reach the recipient, but merely type and click send via Email. It ultimately has been the pinnacle of ‘freedom of speech’.
The case of Bindi vs. Hillary
Recently I read the story of the late Steve Irwin’s Daughter Bindi who wrote an article for the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s department, and they edited and returned it to her. If Hillary Clinton had anything to do with the editing, it has not been made clear at this time from what I can see.
Bindi was invited to write for their e-journal ‘Go Wild Coming Together for Conservation’. In the article submitted, she shared the idea that over-population on our planet is causing a crisis, and all references to ‘over-population’ were edited out when the article was returned to her to resubmit. She refused to do this, resenting the fact that they wanted to stop her sharing her idea.
If she was on topic is another matter and one we can’t be sure of without the opinion of the editor and seeing the invite to participate in contributing to the e-journal.
Social media spreads ideas – no matter what
Thanks to the refusal of Bindi Irwin’s article being reported on by online news sites, and then being shared via a friend on Facebook, I learnt about her idea. This is not the first time that an idea has grown wings from social media. You only have to look at the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and the now infamous Anonymous to see that ideas are being spread on social media and travelling if you agree with the idea or not.
Maybe the editor had a legitimate reason to edit the article, but by refusing to publish her work it lit the fuse for her idea to travel further than it originally might have done. It also means her hopes of winning Dick Smith’s Wilberforce Award have been raised considerably too.
Your business, social media and ideas
When many people think of social media, they think of it as a platform to sell from, but as shown here it is also a basis from which you can share ideas and let them spread – a great platform if you are a grassroots community trying to implement change locally or even an international charity.
On the other hand, your customers might be sharing ideas about your company, your service and/or your product. What does that mean to you? Well, they could be discussing any number of ideas that they have, for example:
- Your company is awesome! :)
- Your company sucks! :(
- Your service and how it compares to the competition
- What you are doing that rocks their world
- What you could be doing to improve their experience
- Ways that they are using your product that you were unaware of
There are all these thoughts, ideas and discussions happening, and there is no way of stopping them spreading – good or bad.
Being active socially for companies is about give and take; you give your time to listen to your marketplace and then take the time to respond to their ideas to form a trusting relationship. This can be in the form of addressing bugs in software, to adding features to the next product that were missing on Version 1.
With ‘big data’ already being the buzzword of 2013, you can see that analysing all these ideas floating about in the ‘social-sphere’ will be a task that many big companies will start to pay an interest to. Small companies can also get in on the act themselves though by monitoring social networks for mentions of the brand and product names. The cost is small and should pay for itself as you start to collect ideas for free that would have otherwise previously escaped you.