I’ve been meaning to write this post for the better part of a month, and each day since I’ve seen new evidence to help support it. Finally, today, I saw a post from Fred Wilson that convinced me to just get it out there already. Here’s why 2012 is the year that movements go mainstream.
Niche Communities & Mainstream Amplifiers
There are significant communities in every corner of the web. The models vary from flat communities like Reddit to vertical leaders like Matt Drudge. Obviously not every idea or issue from every community becomes a movement, but they all stand a shot. It no longer takes a major media organization to amplify your message (though it doesn’t hurt). Committed communities can have serious impacts, just ask GoDaddy.
Additionally, ideas that strike a nerve will get amplified to broader audiences through Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Messages that endure online for more than a few days will get picked up by big media to go even further mainstream, giving the community more momentum, gumption and confidence to push even further. The social psychology at play here is overlooked and underrated. Just look to the Tea Party for a perfect example of how small early wins can lead to brazen confidence - which is often a good thing in a movement.
Video, Audio, Images
These are powerful mediums for a movement and always have been. We’ve already started to see the effects of cheap, ubiquitus technology to capture, create and push media, but the trend will only accelerate. The technology will get cheaper, and more importantly, the cultural norms will shift further and further toward “always on”. Your close friends may always have their phones out, but their parents don’t (yet).
The savvy movements will become even more sophisticated at applying the technology at their disposal. A few quick thoughts:
- These astounding videos from the warsaw riots could become the norm.
- Imagine dozens of these cameras at the next protest movement.
- Instead of syncing multiple videos post-upload, they’ll be live-streamed together.
Lastly, the power of photos to turn into viral memes will be harnessed for more than a chuckle. There is a budding market for image remixing sites, but most of the communities are focused on humor. Since humor is a leading indicator of anxiety, the smart movements will learn to push the right buttons to use that anxiety in their favor.
We’ve seen the power of technology in large movements like the Arab Spring or Occupy. But we’re also seeing the power of small movements. Some of these are subtle and subversive:
- Sticky notes on gas pumps to tell a story across the country
- Moving “non-fiction” books to the fiction section of bookstores
- Pepper spray getting rave reviews on Amazon
Very subtle, but move the zeitgeist forward. Others are more direct in their goals:
- Tumblr can help generate over 80,000 phone calls to state representatives for an important issue.
- Citizens can push for new litigation tactics against large companies, like with Honda owners widespread settlements in small claims court.
Offline Is On
We’re just starting to see what the world looks like when there is no distinction between online and off. When a Rebecca Black parody becomes a Kohl’s commercial, tv news reporters sign off with their facebook page url, and half of all Americans have connectivity everywhere but underground, it’s safe to say that online culture is now just culture.
This is important because the culture makers thriving online come from an assorted lot, have assorted agendas, and have assorted means of amplifying their message. And the difference-makers offline are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their use of technology. We’re going to see these two groups merging toward similar paths, sometimes coming together, sometimes at odds, but always pushing forward.
It should be a hell of a ride.