Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.
~Henry David Thoreau
IT IS ONE OF THE MOST ICONIC and emotional scenes in movie history.
When Forrest Gump runs off his leg braces, it resonates in the hearts of us all. For me, as an entrepreneur, it represents that moment when we break free of our fears and doubts that shackle us-and we run right at our destiny. When we realize we have far more power in us that we knew-if we are just willing to stop thinking and start running.
It's why I got into this business of social media. I love witnessing the moment when the light goes off in people. When they realize that they can use this new media to build a better business, a better life and a better world. They start to believe that it would be better to build their own dreams than those of someone else. I can see these people running off the leg braces in their minds.
Social media is everywhere in the news. It pervades every area of our lives. And, it's everything but fading away. Social media hasn't changed one thing. It has changed everything.
For the first time in human history, the power of the people is greater than the people in power.
And, we've waited millennia for this moment. For thousands of years, the church controlled the message, followed by the printing press, then the mainstream media. Now, YOU control the message. You wield unprecedented, unimagined power-and that power grows by the hour.
Critics cavalierly cast social "MEdia" as a passing fad, a vapid bacchanalia of self-flagellation. While that's somewhat true, the desires to connect and communicate are woven into our very genetic code as human beings. We don't want to be heard, we need to be heard. That's why social media is expanding so explosively, why it's not going away and why it's fundamentally reshaping our world.
Social media is the most seismic shift since the Industrial Revolution, and it happened with blinding speed. Several inflection points led us here:
- Social media helped a relatively unknown senator from Illinois build a veritable army of donors and voters-that overran the most well-entrenched, well-built political machine in a generation.
- Social media dislodged a dictator who had clung to power for 30 years-in 18 days. As 60 Minutes reported, "The [Egypt] revolution began not with terrorism and tanks, but with Twitter and texts ... an aging autocrat who ruled as a modern pharaoh fell victim to those weapons of the young-out-organized and outmaneuvered by social media, by kids with keyboards."
- In August, 2011, a 27 year-old art gallery owner used social media to bring a billion dollar brand to its knees. After Bank of America imposed a debit fee on consumers, Kristen Christian proposed Americans move their money to credit unions. Roughly 100,000 people responded. Within days, BofA shed 4% of its stock value, publicly genuflected-and rescinded the fee.
- When Muammar Gaddafi was killed, images of his body being dragged through the streets instantly went viral, racing to every corner of the globe. In the midst of a press conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned the historic event was spreading across social media, and the White House could do nothing to control the message. There would be no spin. The people had already delivered the message-in its raw, real, unedited, unspun detail.
Social media is the #1 online activity with 1.5 billion users and the fastest-growing form of communication in history. In three years, social media has drawn together one in six humans on the planet. If it were a country, Facebook would be the third largest. Approximately 300,000 people join Twitter-every day. YouTube serves three billion videos daily, with more content uploaded in one month than the three major U.S. TV networks created in 60 years. Like the expansion of the universe, social media is "banging out" at an accelerative rate. It is growing faster, faster. Still, few people understand how social media works and how they fit into it. How did we get here? What were the tipping points? And, what does it all mean to the average person?
Social media is fostering connections, fomenting revolutions and forcing transparency. You are incredibly fortunate to be alive at this time in human history: social media breaks down all of the barriers that, for centuries, have held people back. You can reach anyone. You can pressure companies and government. You can parlay your passion into a viable business-at virtually no cost.
The filmmaker Chris Columbus (Harry Potter, Home Alone) believes that within the next year or so, a kid will shoot, edit and distribute a feature film-from his mobile device.
Please think about that for a moment. He won't need millions of dollars. He won't need an agent. He won't need a studio. All he will need is talent, passion and hard work. The people will market it for him.
Social media is the Chicxulub asteroid. It has already hit Earth. The impact won't kill off all the dinosaurs right away, but the dust cloud will. The dinosaurs require too many resources to survive. This seismic event will clear the way for an entirely new vanguard of intrepid souls-just like you-who will pursue their passions and change the world. We're already seeing it.
You hold more power in your hands than ever before, and that power grows by the hour. Social media can help you build a better business, a better life-and a better world. You just have to put your fears and doubts aside.
Eric Harr is the new Social Media Expert for CBS News and the Founder & President of Resonate Social, a boutique, integrated marketing agency in San Francisco. He is the author of "The REAL TRUTH About Social Media: 8 Timeless Truths Uncovered & 8 Monumental Myths Revealed" now available in Barnes & Noble nationwide and on the REAL TRUTH Website. [Use code "GIVEBACK" and receive 10% off. Proceeds benefit CARE, to defend dignity and fight poverty worldwide.] He is the creator of SocialSee, the first technology that shows True ROI from social media in a real-time dashboard. It goes live: April 1, 2012.