This is an idea that’s been brewing in my head for sometime now. The idea that we’re in the middle of a social media cold war of sorts. The Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union was fueled by anxiety, speculation and resulted in espionage, and a massive arms race. The Cold War began after World War II, possibly World War I (Wikipedia education here, I admit). Either way, it followed after a major war that changed the way the world lived forever.
From when the first shot from the blogworld was heard to now, the world of media has been entrenched in a battle of information. Now versus later, new media versus traditional media, digital versus print, content versus substance, pr versus marketing, consumers versus companies, real-time versus structured thought and so on. The result is nothing short of an informational Cold War.
What do I mean?
As previously noted above, the Wikipedia entry for the Cold War says in its introduction, “The Cold War was the continuing state of conflict, tension and competition that existed primarily between the United States and the Soviet Union and those countries’ respective allies from the mid-1940s to the early 1990s. Throughout this period, the conflict was expressed through military coalitions, espionage, weapons development, invasions, propaganda, and competitive technological development, which included the space race. The conflict included costly defense spending, a massive conventional and nuclear arms race, and numerous proxy wars; the two superpowers never fought one another directly.
As I read my Twitter feed, Digg, Mashable and the other social media news sites, I start to see the tension building, I see the technological race and I see the massive spend being done by business, VCs and startups. I also see the fact that all this is being done for an enemy we never want to face in battle. Who exactly is the enemy here?
The tension that social media has brought has caused companies big and small to be worried about what they’re aren’t doing, rather than thinking of what they could be doing. Internal and external benchmarking, attending conferences to hear the “other” guys speak and rolling out programs just because they don’t want to fall behind. In all honesty, I’ve made calls/tweets to other companies to understand what they’re doing and I’ve taken plenty of calls from companies looking at what I’m involved in. All of it is just one big missile counting exercise.
What does all this mean?
It means that all of the broadcast and monitoring tools are being acquired because people don’t know what they don’t know. The FDR quote comes to mind here, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The reality is like the Cold War, the social media cold war is being fought because our foundation is being threatened. Capitalism vs Communism ; the Defined vs. Segmented marketplace.
It almost seems this race, a race to be in all places, is just like the arms race. The perceived need to develop lots of arms quickly with the hope to never use them. Because if you had to use them, what would happen? And, after using them, will it have been worth it?
To the Victors Go the Spoils
There have been some wins in the space by companies who stuck their neck out.For them, they and others following them will write the history. To the rest, they’ll read and be empowered. They’ll look back at their own missteps and say “only if” and then start a benchmark activity all over again.