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Uneasy Change in Centers of Influence

  |   Insights, Public Relations, Social Media   |   No comment

We often hear people talk today about the growing tarnish on the “institutions” of the United States. Examples include: anger toward Wall Street greed, malfeasance of elected officials, the decline of newsrooms in newspapers across America, and the failure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We are told that the loss of trust in these institutions has heightened our overall concerns about the stability of society because we don’t know what/who to trust.

Yet, the other day at an OC Register sponsored social media day, I heard a really interesting alternative view on the feeling of growing instability.  The viewpoint that was shared focused not on the tarnish or lost of faith but on of the results of the tarnish: loss of influence.  The influence that these “institutions” wielded is diminishing.   Further, simultaneous with their loss of influence, there is a growing influence of the dispersed masses via social media.  There are dozens of studies out now showing the significant influence that even indirect friends have on our decisions.  This shift in social influencers is creating ripples in the social order, and that is at the core of the instability some are seeing.

Consider the following question:

Who has more influence on you: A) your Congressman or B) a Facebook friend?

Given this level of trust, and the relative level of contact that your Facebook friends have with you versus your Congressman, who do you think has more influence over you decisions? Your facebook friends would be my guess.

And that is the point. It is not just that we have lost trust in the historic centers or power and their influence has dropped accordingly, but that “trust vacuum” has been filled by our more immediate relationships (including social media relationships). These friend relationships now, more than ever, influence our decisions on where to save our money, where to get our healthcare and where to source our facts.  The shift in centers of influence will create some volatility and create some confusion.  Hang on tight.

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