From the Editor: A social media tipping point

June 12, 2011

I happen to subscribe to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory about tipping points, the idea that lots of little changes can suddenly add up into something profound.

We seem to be reaching one of those threshold moments with social media.

Like a lot of people, I signed up for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and much more, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t always know what I was supposed to do with all this new media. But I took the jump, just to see what all the commotion was about.

I guess I knew instinctively that the only way to truly understand a paradigm shift is to be an active participant in it. So I poked, tweeted and shared.

And eventually I got it.

Here, I decided, is a thing of value.

How much value I can’t say. I’m skeptical like the next guy about all these mega-million- dollar initial public offerings wowing Wall Street these days. But if it is a bubble, it is only because there is a flaw in the business models.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the trend.

Or so I was reminded last week after speaking to the Leadership Alexandria organization. On the stage with me was the head of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, a top executive from United Way and a vice president for alumni relations at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The speakers were all accomplished managers, passionate about what they do.

In our conversations before, during or after the event, we all at some point talked about how our organizations are trying to adapt to the rise in new media.

The airports authority can barely conclude a meeting these days before its deliberations are being hotly debated on the Internet. United Way is learning new ways to reach out to contributors and charities alike. Colleges ponder how best to organize alumni in an age of mobility, when graduates remain tethered only by cell phones and Facebook accounts.

Social media is really just a manifestation of a whole host of changes underway, and yet the shift seems undeniable:

The world is tipping.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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