From Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe's opening address to the closing keynote by Michael Procopio, a motif of science fiction flickered through the two-day Social Media Intelligence Conference last week. Volpe used Star Wars to contextualize her assertions while Procopio referred to Blade Runner and Star Trek as the opposing futures that draw closer (one grim, one glossy). It's tough to deny the similarities when our augmentations of reality are already beginning to blur with reality itself. Younger generations are fluent in completely new, visual languages that weren't even possible to theorize just five years ago. And believe it or not, so are you.
Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads
The pervasiveness of social media on the internet is obvious. Ten percent of the United States is on Twitter. One in every eleven visits to the internet is someone logging into Facebook. And many of us network right on our phones. Within a very short time, we'll be doing it in our Google Glasses, Facebook Phone, contact lenses (MIT has a patent on these) or brain implants, with less effort and easier access.
Let's not forget Wikipedia, Yelp, Reddit, et al. This is the sum of the world's knowledge, funneled through the active population. By integrating this worldwide system of information seamlessly into our reality, we are on the precipice of an entirely new language; one of vision, intuition, transparency. In this world, we are everywhere at once without leaving our homes. Sound sci-fi? It's not. It's imminent.
That's intended to be more exciting than it is frightening. But you're allowed to be a little scared. The rate of growth for these technologies is exponential. The power that companies like Google and Facebook have is nearly unlimited. As Procopio put it, the proliferation of social media sites will continue, and continue to be bought up by those two entities endlessly, until the FTC or the European Union steps in. Meantime, Google has free reign to go all Cyberdyne on our asses.
So you've been absorbed by the system. You tweet your Instagrams and Facebook your blog posts. You're in the matrix. Enjoy the over-enlightened era! I certainly do. Marvel at the wealth of information at your fingertips. Utilize tools to organize that data to your advantage, like Newsle, Google Alerts and many more. Discover the means to speak your piece (WordPress), and find out if your thoughts are actually substantive (did anyone read it?). Ease yourself in one outlet at a time, and should you fail, restart and reinvent yourself.
Two awesome benefits of becoming the virtual representation of yourself are that anonymity is built right in and feedback is indirect. Here, you can enjoy praise and success while you learn from insults and failure, all without experiencing any of the embarrassing discomfort. Never before have our ambitions been so widely encouraged, our failures so easy to recover from and the results so readily available.
May The Force Be With You
Since we're enjoying this 8-bit apparition of ourselves (with unlimited re-spawn capability), let's toss in some super powers. Let's manipulate our environment. Use your influence to modify your environment, like some kind of bad-ass Jedi warrior. When you engage in a social interaction, you have an effect on it. You change that instance of time. When you engage in an interaction on the web, be it a review, tweet, comment or like, your presence is rippling well beyond it. With precision and patience, you can have influence far beyond your own circles, and like the technology you're using, your influence will grow exponentially.
Best of all, the application of that practice is easy, and the approach is all but obvious. Attack trending topics. Engage with existing influencers (use Klout or similar tools to identify them if you're not sure). Act across multiple sites and do so consistently to be exposed to a wide range of people (use HootSuite to save time if you're lazy, or like, have a job or something). Tell a story that has narrative and triggers emotion. Care about what others are saying, and react to it thoughtfully. Learn the nuances as you go. And most importantly, don't be afraid to fail!