09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

The release of this number caused havoc.

Readers can click on a “Digg” icon on news stories, blog posts, and websites all over the internet and the stories clicked the most are featured on Digg.com.

On May 1st, 2007 Digg.com, as a result of reader votes, featured a story with the above number at the top of its homepage.  Within hours, Digg had received a cease-and-desist e-mail from lawyers.  The link to the page containing this number was consequently removed.

Yet, internet users around the world ensured that the spread of this number occurred.

“You can’t take something off the Internet.  That’s like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool.” (NewsRadio, 1990s television show)

The number quickly appeared on thousands of other sites, which in turn rose in the Digg rankings.  The spread was so prolific that the owners of Digg were barely able to comply with the cease-and-desist orders.  They were forced to make a decision and quickly chose to listen to their audience rather than give in to the cease-and-desist declaration.

“The Internet allows people to draw strength from each other.  Digg’s members and the bloggers who posted the forbidden key weren’t part of some secret society; most of them didn’t even know each other.  But blogs, sites like digg.com, and the Internet in general allowed them to connect to each other, to feel unafraid, and to be powerful” (Groundswell, Page 6).

The released number, 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0, was the high-definition DVD processing key, the release of which made it possible to make copies of the supposedly uncopyable DVDs.  It was the movie industry that had its lawyers attempt to stop the release of this top secret number, but the attempt failed miserably.  In fact, “by asking that the story be taken down, the representatives of the movie industry had created a whirlwind of publicity, ensuring that it could never be taken down.  People, by moving together on the Internet for a moment in time, had created an irresistible, ineradicable groundswell” (Groundswell, Page 6).  Attempts to remove content from the Internet have been shown to be futile in many more cases than just this, a concept now termed the Streisand effect.

This story illustrates the revolutionary nature of social media.  It allows people from across the globe to connect and have an easy means of organizing behind their ideas and thoughts.  This revolution, called the “groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, is “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Groundswell, Page 9).  It is an irreversible new movement in which people and companies are offered new opportunities for connecting.

There are three factors driving this new era: an innate desire of people to connect to others, new interactive technologies, and the ease of generating revenue online.

“The groundswell has changed the balance of power.  Anybody can put up a site that connects people with people” (Groundswell, Page 13).  The result of such ease of creation and use is that the need for other institutions is being obliterated, cutting down profit margins, stealing market share, and eliminating competitive edges.  At the same time, some organizations are thriving by being able to better identify stakeholders needs and desires, allowing for quicker communication, and offering cheaper means of advertising.

Regardless of whether it is positively or negatively impacting an organization, it is clear that the widespread emergence of social media and blogging is revolutionary.  It is changing the conversations that people can have, the ease of finding others who stand for the same things and want to fight for the same causes, the availability of information, and the ability of consumers to have their voices heard.

The results are far reaching.  For example, quality standards are being heightened.  If a consumer purchases a poor quality product, he can blog about it and others can read about, forcing the producer to improve the quality.  This feedback would have taken months, perhaps even years, to have a substantial enough backing prior to the introduction of social media.

Be scared or be enthusiastic, but either way social media is transforming the world.  As aspiring managers, I, like the authors of Groundswell, suggest that you embrace the new social technologies and understand their potential benefits, rather than viewing them as evils.

The Positive Ways Bucknell University Uses Social Media:

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