Imagine you’re a political strategist in 1992. Some consultant walks in the door and says they have access to the aggregate, real-time opinions of millions of Americans. He describes the power of his tool as sifting through the raw, unedited and highly emotional opinions and thoughts from every segment of the American population, and he can analyze it for you. He can predict the future by reading minds. Sounds crazy.
That consultant would have been full of it, obviously. He would have been equally ridiculed in the 2004 presidential election, but what about 2008 or 2012? Social media today presents the possibility of aggregating these broadcasts and creating some sort of prediction. But is it credible?
The uprisings in the Arab world have caused the latest buzz around social media and the power of analyzing its aggregate. Of course, most attention is paid to the use of social media to organize and communicate quickly and many are still asking the useless question of “does it matter”. Internet pessimists, or social media pessimists, should be sitting in dark corners cursing Malcolm Gladwell for making such discussion popular.