business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

According to the simple philosophy of Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately, these days we often see a sad corollary that with great power comes no responsibility. This, too, is part of the world of the social web.

We see it demonstrated all the time, whether it’s cyber-bullying in American schools or portrayed on the television show “Glee,” incredible rumors about celebrities or politicians e mailed to us constantly, or even a sudden web phenomena around a Ugandan warlord. In a world where everyone is a fount of news, how do we know what is and isn’t true?

The social web is an amazing force of social change. Just consider all that has happened around the globe in the past year fueled in large part by social networking. While Facebook isn’t solely responsible for bringing down leaders in Tunisia, Libya or Egypt, it sure helped.

Then comes the story of Joseph Kony 2012 and the Invisible Children’s campaign. If this were a simple story, I’d be writing today about the incredible power of the social web and how a viral video managed to snag 50 million views in a matter of hours (70 million in a few days), in the process shining a light on a nightmarish situation in Central Africa. In the course of the video, an official from the World Court even talks about the power of social networking to right societal wrongs and bring a criminal like Kony to justice. But as we all know, the world is full of stories that seem simple until you do just a little checking.

So it goes with Joseph Kony 2012. Clearly, he’s a horrible guy who deserves a jail cell at best, but the story wasn’t quite as straightforward as presented. The situation in Uganda is more complex than any of us know, the danger posed by Kony today might be incredibly overstated and the altruism of the video’s authors might well be questionable.

And that’s just one day on the social web. Yikes.

The reality of the social network is that as usual we have to take everything with a grain or two of salt. Remember the saying, you should believe half of what you see and none of what you hear?. It’s time for a new adage regarding the social web and the percentage of what we should believe is dropping daily. If you don’t believe me, I know some Nigerian princess who has a lot of money to send you. (Yet another common web hoax.)

There’s no denying the power of the social web. The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) study I’ve been writing about for weeks here on MNB details the incredible pace of use and the power to influence and partner with shoppers like never before. (The study, which I’m an active part of delivering, can be found here.) The social web is a reality and it demands the attention of every business in more ways that we can imagine.

With more than one billion people using social networks worldwide, it’s clear that we are seeing the birth of a transformative technology. But in many ways it is also like the wild west; undeveloped and alluring, yet lawless and dangerous. It appears that we all have a lot to learn and we must do it on the fly.

The reality is that you can’t possibly navigate this new world with your eyes closed. You need them wide open, just cautious to everything they see. Transformations are never simple or easy especially when they happen in real time around the world.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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