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There’s Power in Connecting. Yet Most of us Remain Spectators.

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The Stakes are Higher to Trigger Action

It’s easy to get all optimistic about how social media can changes things. That’s where Clay Shirky was when he wrote Here Comes Everybody. He cited (among many examples) how people organized using social media to demanded accountability from the Catholic Church hierarchy as the priest sexual abuse scandal opened (turns out the 60’s were to blame, and the church is all beyond that now, thank you. Somebody bought some great research!). Shirky’s book carried an optimistic tone that continually wondered at what was possible when we start connecting.

And many of us are training ourselves to read reviews of products before we buy. The thinking is that the opinion of several people we don’t know is more accurate than product advertising issued by the marketer. So smart marketers are learning to plant negative reviews along with positive.

And, of course, we’re watching people organize in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to oust the corrupt leaders. So it’s just one small step to thinking about the awesome power we have when we connect: power to overthrow decades old monarchs, power to hold authority accountable, power to see through marketing hype.

But Groundswell by Li and Bernoff helps cool that optimism to a more realistic pitch. Their Social Technographic Profile lets you pick a demographic and get a hint of how they interact with social media. And what you’ll see is that most people are spectators, independent of demographic profile. Most of us watch. From the sidelines. Which surprises no one: take any organization and you’ll find most people watching.

The lesson is not to despair of our tendency to be spectators. The lesson is to find and create an irresistible magnetic pull around the things that are most important.

The stakes are much higher for getting and retaining attention.

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