Friday, 28 May 2010

The Big Society and Social Media

I am pondering the similarities between the "Big Society" vision of the new UK government (the Liberal/Conservative Coalition) and the rise of social media and social networking. Both seem to be about putting control into the hands of the people and reducing the concept of centralised control. Both seem to be about trust - we trust each other more than we trust governments and corporations and do not believe that these organisations know what is best for us. A quote being liberally Tweeted yestersday was from Sir Ronald Cohen at the Harvard Business School Class Day 2010 - "people don't want charity; they want choice". In other words, don't tell me what to do but support me in doing what I want to do.

Am I detecting a social media led shift away from being controlled? Either by our governments, our suppliers or retailers or even our medical professionals. We no longer accept what we are told or what we are given and certainly want our opinions taken into consideration - whether that be about national legislation, buying products and services or during a consultation with our doctor.

David Cameron uses "Big Society" to describe his vision of returning power to the people, more local control of local issues. I don't think this has been explained very well but I think I am begining to get it by looking through the social media lens. Hazel Blears, the Labour MP and former Minister, was on the "This Week" programme last night expressing her view that the "Big Society" would have sat well in Tony Blair's Labour government. However, it appears the problem was that he could not get support from the great controller Gordon Brown (aka The Great Leader). Maybe this is one of the reasons Gordon Brown was so unpopular - he was out of synch with a population that wants more control and less controlling.

The fantastic growth in the use of social media is making this shift possible. Look at the examples of Facebook campaigns which quickly garner huge support for causes or in protest against issues. On the flip side, the social media opportunities to test these products or political ideas before launch or publication are equally great.

It seems inevitable to me that power is shifting to the people and that social media tools are making this possible. These days trust can only be gained through greater transparency and looser controls rather than through exploiting positions of power or by media spin.

Social media and the big society, is it a compelling combination for you?