The last few weeks and months have seen a bewildering number of dramas played out on the world stage. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the protests in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the violent uprising in Libya and, most recently the devastating earthquake in Japan. What has struck me is the big role that social networks have played in all of these events. In the case of the revolutions about the middle east and northern Africa social media sites such as Facebook allowed opposition groups to come together and communicate with each other, while in the case of the Japanese earthquake we are seeing far more information come out of the region from the ground level than we would have seen previously. And one could argue that the success, or at least strength, of the opposition movements was down to the various groups being able to organise themselves through the social networks.
It is hard then to deny the impact that social networking has had on the world. It has become a standard way that many people now communicate their ideas. Instead of writing a letter, a newspaper article or phoning a friend, people write a blog, create a web page or update their various statuses (seems a more appropriate word than states). When Stephen Fry updates his Twitter status, over 2.3 million people get the information. This could seem pointless when he tweets about what he had for breakfast, but when a person with a potential audience of 2.3 million states his preference for one opinion/policy/product or another, all of a sudden this is not trivial or pointless.
If a business wants to grow and reach a new audience then through the social media is the way to do it. It needs to be a part of your marketing strategy with the same amount of planning and effort as would go into your print, conference or television advertising. You may not like it, but social media is here to stay. Much of it is trivial or banal, but so are many telephone conversations, and think how vital the telephone is to business.