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So What's This Book About?

By Tom Watson on January 12, 2008No Comment

The business pages are filled with stories of start-up companies and massive valuations. Google grows ever more rapidly into a global powerhouse. And the reach of social networks like Facebook stretches every day. Americans are living more of their lives in public, creating vast lists of online “friends” and professional colleagues, sharing their experiences, their taste in music, their political choices, and even their personal lives.

No trend is hotter than the rush to create social networks, the vast intertwined next generation of the web that promises real-time connection and communication. Americans of all ages are taking part, but no group is more enthusiastic – and more empowered – than the so-called “millennials,” that demographic slice of our society that has never known life without the Internet. These young men and women now entering the workforce for the first time have lived much of their lives online, and they bring with them in their introduction to the national economy – and our society – great expectations for lightning-fast communications, openness and transparency, and the ability to change the landscape quickly.

At the same time, the world is a smaller place. Genocide in remote villages in the east African nation of Darfur is covered by Google maps that show the devastation and religious cleansing, while hundreds of bloggers write about the terrible story – not merely passing along links from mainstream media organizations, but urging action and placing a premium on their own opinion. On Facebook, the fastest-growing online social network in the world, hundreds of thousands of people – students, young professionals, political action committees, and even gray-haired CEOs and captains of industry – signal their support for stopping the slaughter and helping the victims by placing badges on their individual profiles. Video sharing brings the story home, and thousands of digital photographs are trade and posted on blogs and social networks. Keywords and tags allow anyone interested in the topic to explore a massive cultural document – the living expansion of the topic in public consciousness – through blog networks and search engines. Darfur becomes more than a yellowing news-clipping down in the backroom of the public library, more than a research report, more than a news story from far away. It becomes a cause. More accurately, Darfur becomes CauseWired.

This is a term of art – first employed in this book I’m writing, I think– and it’s absolutely essential for anyone interested in the public consciousness to understand, in my view. So who’ll want to read it? Or, on the more business-oriented side, who should read it? Here’s what I think:

For consumer marketers, causes are a vital path to successful brands – never before have consumers cared more about the ethical righteousness of companies.

For employers, it’s also a vital concept: studies show that talented young people only want to work for companies and organizations they believe contribute to the public good.

For nonprofit organizations and the philanthropists who support them, a grasp of the coming influence of social networks in causes will be, frankly, key to survival in a world where your grandfather’s style of check-writing charity no longer applies.

For government and anyone involved in politics, the hopes and dreams of the “Facebook generation” and the older early adopters like them are crucial aspects of winning electoral support in elections ranging from national Presidential contests to the vote for local council seats.

Finally, well-informed and interested consumers themselves will seek a better understanding of the very trend they’re creating. This is expected – after all, anyone who is CauseWired understands that fact quite clearly. This group discusses the very trends it is in involved in with a transparent self-awareness that is really unprecedented in public discourse. CauseWired consumers are super-informed consumers who expect to create and support causes, change politics, and have personal involvement in the brands they support economically.

While many books have covered the impact of digital media – from blogs to video to the rise of social networks – I think this will be the first to track the impact on causes, from the charitable to the political, and provide a road map to anyone serious about understanding the social impact on the social web.

So, stay with if you’d like. Send in your ideas and comments and stories. I’ll be post links here to some of the stuff I’m writing about. The del.ici.ous feed in the right column will let you know what I’m reading – feel free to suggest others. Oh yeah, the book is due in about four months!

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