Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday, Egypt!

When Internet access was fully restored in Egypt after a one-week blackout (in a failed attempted to thwart anti-government protesters) Facebook and Twitter statistics when through the roof. Despite the blackout, one of the biggest players throughout this crisis has been social technology.
Innovation by Silicon Valley's brightest has kept people on the ground in Egypt connected to the outside world throughout the crisis. A Google-Twitter partnership set up international phone numbers allowed people to call and leave a voicemail that was automatically tweeted. This meant when mobile networks were down, people could call from landlines and still reach their Internet audience.
This is not the first time social media has empowered people in crisis. Twitter was first recognized as a weapon in the fight for democracy during the 2009 Iranian election uprising. 
Has anyone reading this ever used a GPS system in their car? 
The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global navigation satellite system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth when and where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver. GPS was created and realized by the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD) and was originally run with 24 satellites. It was established in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems. Now, we all get to use this magical service – for free – to help you find your way home, or to plan your best route to work, avoiding traffic along the way.
Anyone here ever use the Internet? 
The origins of the Internet reach back to research of the 1960s, commissioned by the United States government in collaboration with private commercial interests to build robust, fault-tolerant, and distributed computer networks. The funding of a new U.S backbone by the National Science Foundation in the 1980s, as well as private funding for other commercial backbones, led to worldwide participation in the development of new networking technologies, and the merger of many networks. The commercialization of what was by the 1990s an international network resulted in its popularization and incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life. As of 2009, an estimated quarter of Earth's population used the services of the Internet.

Almost every technology that we all use and that we all take for granted – every single day – was born out of multi-billion dollar budgets from massive corporations. (I consider the US Government to be a massive corporation).  We are then ultimately judged by how we use (and then master) these once very expensive tools.

The first “cell phone” call was made on the moon, as cellular phone technology was born out of the space race. Today, we cannot think of leaving our homes without our cell phones.  The magic of sending and receiving a “fax” was a big deal in the 90’s, and owning a fax machine back then was considered to be a status symbol for a small business. 

Will you Tweet today?  Will you post anything on Facebook?  Do you have a website for your business?  And most importantly, do you have a proper social media strategy for your business?  I've been mostly silent on the "social media revolution in Egypt" meme because, frankly, I didn't want to join an already crowded chorus until enough information had emerged for the beginning of an actual analysis.  Justly or not, the idea of the uprising in Egypt being a "Twitter revolution" or "Facebook revolt" has become one of the major narratives in the American media. I think it will be the first of many.

Here is what I do know to be true. Not every technology will last the test of time. Fax machines were hot, and now, not so much. Cell phones were hot – and they stayed hot – and they will get even hotter as the Smartphone replaces the PC. Will Social Media be as popular as it is today, ten years from now? I say yes.

If you are in business, you cannot afford to ignore the social media revolution. You would not think to have a business in today’s world, without a website, would you?  Not too many years ago, people in business had to ask themselves, if they needed a phone number listed in the Yellow Pages. Just as the term “Webmaster” was born in the 80’s the term “Social Media Expert” (or something like that) will become the norm in business.

Do you know what is worse than not having a website?  A bad website.  Do you know what is worse than having no Social Media strategy for your business?  Having a bad social media strategy. In the business of tomorrow, your social media expert will become just as important as your CPA, Attorney or Bookkeeper.  Govern yourself accordingly, and don’t try to do it alone.

In closing, Happy Birthday, Egypt! I’ll go now and put a nice posting on your Facebook page.

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