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The Social Network, Marketing and the Revolution

I just saw “The Social Network” and I loved it. Aaron Sorkin proved once again that he is the best dialogue writer in Hollywood (followed closely by Quentin Tarantino and Diablo Cody, IMHO). His words, and director David Fincher’s skill, kept the movie flowing and riveting, never once sounding anything but utterly real and believable.

And Jesse Eisenberg made Mark Zuckerberg into an everyman for our generation.

In the first scene, Zuckerberg tells his girlfriend that there are more geniuses in China than there are people in the US. We begin to see Zuckerberg as an everyman: even though he’s a genius, and knows it, that doesn’t guarantee entry into the members-only clubs where the cool people hang out.

“The Social Network” is about us, all of us, trying to fit in, looking for a place to belong, and finding our voice: collectively and individually. It’s a messy process, and there will be sins of commission and omission along the way.

I heard a reviewer on whatever cable channel was on at the time saying that this movie isn’t just the movie of a decade, it’s the movie of the generation, and that got me thinking.

We live in a time that future generations will look back on as revolutionary. And it’s not revolutionary because men like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg built products and companies that changed everything: it’s revolutionary because society was ready to embrace the new world their creations helped birth.

That new world is the world of virtually simultaneous, planet-wide shared awareness, perception and discussion.

Think about it. How do you get your information now? How do you experience the world? And most importantly, how do you share it, and what’s the lag time between discovery and dissemination?

I used to be a newspaper junkie. Then a Google News Junkie. Now, I have a News list on Twitter that gets the latest updates from the WSJ, The NY Times, Huffington Post, CNN, Mashable, Techcrunch and more. (The WSJ alone has dozens of Twitter feeds.) Now I can finally scan the news quickly and easily and know what’s going on everywhere instantly.

A few days ago, the shooting at the University of Texas was first reported on Twitter by students on campus. And as the situation developed, the local police were sending out their “official updates” to the news networks via Twitter.

The implications for Marketing and Advertising are sweeping. Because in the new era, ideas don’t spread because you throw money into spreading them. An idea spreads now because the wired-together world likes it and tells itself about it. The internet is littered with the corpses of bad ideas drenched in the blood of wasted marketing dollars.

Yes, getting heard among the rising background noise is hard. And at its most basic level, if you don’t know how to use the tools of social media, or don’t have the time, then marketers and advertisers can help.

But make no mistake: the ultimate success or failure of an idea, a product or a service is now dependent upon the quality of the idea, the product or the service. If people like it, they tell others. If they don’t, they don’t. And the way people find out about things these days is through a connected, always-on social network that exists online and off, via text and email and word of mouth across mobile phones and smart phones and laptops and computers, via Facebook and Twitter and Google.

It didn’t used to be that way, and that is sad for the good ideas that died stillborn and unheard, for lack of money or wherewithal. But I say, good riddance to the old world, and welcome to the new.

And yet, there are still those who resist the tide and cling to the ways they’ve always known, who look at multiple channels and only see fragmentation, who look at millions of people talking about what’s important to them and only perceive self-indulgent and distracting noise.

Can someone please explain to me how anyone can look at this time as anything less than a revolution, as the dawn of an era where a world of billions of individuals finally came together to know itself as a whole community greater than the sum of its parts?

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By jlsimons

I’m a storyteller who has spent my life focused on the things people do for fun, from games and hobbies to comic books and podcasts. I love building and managing teams of incredible people and empowering them to do the best, most fun and fulfilling work of their careers. I am also a senior level marketing executive with a unique blend of over 34 years of podcast marketing, social media community building, promotional partnerships, advertising, interactive, branding, marketing, paid and organic search, direct response, analytics, and game design. Along the way, I've built a leading podcast brand and a million-plus-subscriber YouTube channel, created multinational promotions for global brands, and co-desiged critically acclaimed collectible card and role-playing games.
Oh yeah, and I write science fiction.

Specialties: Podcast marketing, social media community building, promotional partnerships, integrated marketing, social media, strategic marketing, alternate channels, direct response, corporate marketing, copywriting, advergaming, game design and development, financial advertising

7 replies on “The Social Network, Marketing and the Revolution”


I will have to check out the movie. You are right about the implications for marketing and advertising. If you have a good idea or product, people will talk about it. That is very true in B2C, but may not be as apparent in B2B. I follow a lot of people and businesses on Twitter and some are just self promoters, while others give me something of value. If there is also a product or service in the mix that can help my business, I am all over it. And it doesn’t always have to be sexy to sell.


Thanks for the comment, Ron. I think that some B2B marketers have done better than others at using social media. Intuit, Sun, and Dell all come to mind. And what about Hubspot? I found out about Hubspot from other bloggers and on Twitter. I’ve found out about a ton of new websites, service providers, software, apps, products etc. from Mashable and ClickZ blogs. Also, business people tend to congregate around the same online water coolers, either by vertical or by job type. I think LinkedIn groups are invaluable for this. In fact, as someone who has advertised both B2C and B2B, I would say that while the B2B target audiences tend to be much smaller than consumer target audiences, they are usually more tightly focused and better defined. Which makes social media even more powerful. As for sexy, it doesn’t have to be sexy to sell in Social. The record-setting Haitian Earthquake texted donations proved that.

You are correct about the tight knit communities and that quality is better than quantity in the B2B world. Think about how useless the last trade show you attended was. Some companies like Hubspot are knocking it out of the park. Not sure about Dell, since they are both B2C and B2B. I agree that aggregators like Mashable play a big role for purchasing, but I wonder how much of it is B2C. Since many of us use the same technologies for work and home, the lines are blurring. If I like it for my home, I may buy it for work. Of course sometimes I use the same tools for both, so the lines blur even more.

Blurry is right. Think about Facebook. It became my major social presence, but then business and personal started impacting each other, and not for the better. So Twitter and LinkedIn is now business, and now after seeing the movie I’ll crawl back to Facebook for personal.

I found this to be a very relevant post, especially combining the opening of The Social Network to theaters and the death of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi.

Your point is excellent. The “revolution” has occurred and they do occur with every generation in some form. Also with every “revolution” there are folks who resist and see the change as the end of something they consider precious. The resistance to the new often comes with moralizing and rigid thinking.

In this case, the social network revolution brings so much that is good and with everything, offers opportunity to some things that are just plain bad. In the case of Tyler and other young vulnerable people, the potential for evil done to them enters a new realm of expression with a pace that is daunting. Tragic! However equally significant is the opportunity to blast the cruelty at its naked worse, around the world.

Fingers crossed, something beautiful and hopeful will be born out this latest example of the social revolution. It is marketing at its best, social connecting that opens pathways to rich and warm moments around the world, and exposure of mankind and womankind at their worse.

Thanks Jeff for a concise and useful perspective as always.

Wow, thanks for the comment, Jill. I think your twin points about speed and scale are both what make social marketing the powerful, inescapable force it’s becoming. Yes, inescapable: even if you check out of your online social networks, your real world one will soon ask you why you’re not on Facebook anymore or how come you haven’t answered any tweets in the last few days. The Rutgers tragedy is horrible, and feels like it crossed a line into something uglier than just invasion of privacy.

I do understand what you’re saying about every generation having some form of revolution, but identity-building revolutions are one thing, and revolutions that become societal evolutions are another. I think we’re at the dawn of the latter, and I think we’re in for a bumpy ride.

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