I am a huge fan of New York Times columnist Frank Rich. His column is the first place I go every Sunday morning and sometimes late Saturday night when you can get his Sunday column early online. On the other hand, I am whatever the opposite is of a fan of Malcolm Gladwell whose books always seem to me to be about pop science used to explain the obvious. Their paths more or less crossed in the last week with pieces that go after the social media hype in interesting ways. Both take up the issue of Facebook and Twitter in politics and both dismiss their influence pretty convincingly.
The Rich piece gives me excuse to post one of my all time favorite Internet cartoons by pointing out that most of the political chatter driven by major politicians and political parties is as false and contrived as everything else they do. Gladwell takes on some of the major myths about the political importance of Twitter (like the Iranian elections of last year), notes that connections in social media are inherently weak, and that any sort of meaningful personal action in politics or in life occurs not through listening to social media but through interaction with real friends. Word of mouth is important, but not when the mouth is Twitter.
One of the great clichés of the new MR is that brands need to listen to what is being said about them in social media. No quarrel there. But the corollary that social media conversation drives purchasing behaviors in meaningful ways, well, I think the jury is still out on that one.