Social Networks: Harnessing the Power of Groups to Change Society

The internet is now deeply embedded in group and organizational life in America, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Researchers found  75% of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and internet users are more likely than others to be active group participant, with participation highest among users of social networks.

According to the study 80% of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-internet users. And social media users are even more likely to be active: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.

This isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Just in the past week, the dictator of Tunisia was  toppled by an uprising that started with a man who set himself on fire in protest to this rulers injustice, which was then recorded, posted, blogged about and spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, the Arab world is showing tremendous interest and concern in the event because they’re worried such uprisings, fueled by the social web, could spread to their nations.

What we’re witnessing is not just the power of social networks, it’s the power of Reeds Law , which describes the ability of large networks, particularly social networks, to scale exponentially, thereby serving has a conduit for almost instantaneous information transfer to the masses. Add mobile phones in this mix and you have a powerful channel for revolution. The established top-down command and control hierarchy’s in society are tremendously  threatened by this ability we now have to connect directly with one another…and they should be. Look what happened in Tunisia? This is not an isolated incident.

If the social web has the ability to impact governments and nations this way, what hope does a brand stand…other than to embrace change and become a part of the conversation?