Did blogging challenge mainstream media?

Old key chain in the shape of a small Earth globeAs is his wont, Tom Foremski has once again inspired me to take pen to paper; this time in response to his recent, somewhat wistful article: “Blogging failed to challenge mainstream media.” I have seen various responses to Tom’s post, the key theme being: “did we (early bloggers) make a difference?” It’s easy to suggest, for example, that the recent rise in a brand’s need to use paid media strategies to gain more visibility and engagement is yet another sign that the good guys lost; that the Cluetrain ran off the tracks.

My official response to such naysayers is “pfft.”  The commercialization of social media marketing was bound to happen, especially as we winnowed the field to a handful of players (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.), with more leverage to pry open the corporate coffers. And let’s remember, all along we’ve been talking about “social” media, not “socialism.” I don’t think anyone should be begrudged making a buck, if they can do so honestly.

Here’s a slightly revised note I sent to a fellow early blogger, in response to their question along these “did we make a difference?” lines. If you’ve read this far, you might be interested…

Though Social Media can be used for good or ill, I doubt anyone would argue that it’s not ultimately a GOOD thing that anyone, anywhere, at any time, can publish damn-near anything they want, for consumption by a global audience. It’s a game changer on the scale of the Gutenberg printing press — which was the last time world culture experienced such a dramatic and sustainable drop in the cost of publishing content.  Yes, this ALSO means that we’re inundated with dross. That’s humanity, revealed in all its unique foolishness and passion.

That said, it’s not all about the LOLcats. “Social business?” “Social Media Marketing?” We are just in the beginning stages of understanding how social media will impact organizations and marketing.  The difference now is that the populace’s instantaneous and public reactions continue to nudge brands toward “betterment.”  Better policies, better products, more responsiveness, more transparency.

Did we make a difference? “We” were the folks who helped nudge this boulder off the cliff; “we” helped popularize the trend; “we” helped define what success looked like (lauding transparency and responsiveness); “we” promoted this social media stuff as a force for good.  I keep putting “we” in quotations cuz obviously that “we” extends far beyond the early bloggers, and even beyond the Cluetrain folks.

There’s a difference between “making a difference” and “perfecting the world.”

Hell, yes, we made a difference. Everything is different now, and mostly(!) for the better.  If nothing else, it’s a lot more interesting world.  I leave the perfection of humanity to brighter minds.

Todd Defren
Chief Executive Officer


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