A social revolution is afoot

Social Media Logotype BackgroundMuch the largest social changes of our, or any other, day are being driven by technology. The mass media which transformed the Twentieth Century are in decline and social media are rising. We are beginning to see the impact of this in business. Some businesses are being transformed faster than others. Travel has been disintermediated, with customers buying directly from airlines or web aggregators rather than using travel agents. But in dating introduction services disintermediation is not just taking out a layer from the cost base. It anonymizes and removes a previous social stigma. The web-based industry is not only cheaper than high street introduction agencies – or even newspaper small ads – it is vastly bigger. The number of people using the service is far greater than a couple of decades ago.

But this column is, mostly, political. So let us consider what these radical changes in society will bring to politics. Such thoughts are necessarily speculative. But here is one: liberals and conservatives will be replaced by greens and libertarians. This is not to say that either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party will be swept aside: that’s possible, but there are many institutional advantages that the main parties enjoy. It is more likely that these parties will adapt their ideologies than that they will be replaced.

So why do I predict these changes? Is it just wishful thinking? I think not. Digital channels are inherently open to individual activism and the aggregation of people with many different interests. The advantages that have been held by churches and by labor unions are being massively diluted. People can collaborate in groups that are geographically dispersed and in no way connected to the place where they work or worship. The strong social connections that churches and unions have provided for parties will now have to compete with new communication channels.

Unions are particularly challenged at the moment. Reforming executives such as governors Walker (R-WI), Kasich (R-OH) and (former governor) Daniels (R-IN) have radically changed the basis on which government unions are organized. More significantly they have been joined by Democrats including Andrew Cuomo and (most courageously of all) Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago.

Reviewing the proofs of my upcoming book (Brandjack: available for pre-order from Amazon) I was struck by the extent to which the business agenda is being set by environmental campaigns, especially Greenpeace. Brandjack reviews 140 case studies of organizations facing a social media crisis: not one of them was led by a labor union. Greenpeace, by contrast, created crises for Nestlé, Unilever, Shell, Burger King, BP, Facebook and even Barbie (Mattel).

Of course, the people making money from digital media are entrepreneurs. Perhaps this new breed of young millionaires and billionaires will be conservative? Maybe, but many of them seem to be liberal or libertarian. Many are decentralizing Randian individualists. They have no time for the GOP’s social agenda. Despite being businesspeople, many preferred Barack Obama to Mitt Romney: but that does not mean they would prefer Hillary Clinton (or Joe Biden!) to Rand Paul or Marco Rubio.

The future of liberalism will be more Greenpeace than the Teamsters and the future of conservatism will be more Ayn Rand and Friederich Hayek than Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at

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