Malcom Gladwell on Social Media

Thought leader Malcolm Gladwell gives his viewpoint on social media. What is quite interesting is that Malcolm’s social footprint does not contain active channels of aggregated content from him, but from others talking about Malcolm in general. That is, his blog posts are biannual, his Facebook page is void of content, and his tweets are far and few between. This coming from a celebrated writer who’s book, The Tipping Point, laid down some fundamental principles in social activity. Add this all up and it set the plate for a very interesting interview.

Overall, his assessment states that the balance of social media’s innovation is a net good. But he also feels that there are some serious deficiencies. His statements align with his beliefs on why people network and follow one another.

“The ease with which you can organize people means you no longer have to go to the trouble of things like building strong grassroots organizations, developing a coherent message, forming strong and lasting ties with individuals.”

We talk about how social engages people with emotional connections, however that is not all so true according to Gladwell.

“If you follow me on Twitter, I do not own your heart. I may own your pocketbook momentarily. And I may own your attention for five-seconds, but that’s it.”

And his most interesting quote:
“The problem is, we’re still in the experimental phase. The thing about Facebook is, it’s insanely new. This world of the Internet, if we know anything from its brief history, it likes nothing more than to build someone up only to topple them. Who has an AOL account these days? Not that long ago, AOL was the single most powerful player on the Internet. Who has a MySpace account these days? MySpace sold for billions of dollars not that long ago. I’m very reluctant to crown Facebook king of the future. They certainly are flavor of the month. This is not a world that respects loyalties and longevity.”

I think whether or not you are crowning anyone king of the future, there are millions of people following the social media tipping point. How long does a tipping point have to last? Some of the examples in Malcom’s book refer to tipping point phenomena that are no longer tipping points any longer. They are gone as well. The point is, with the rapid pace of change and unpredictability, and the increasing lack of attention due to the flooding of content available to the consumers, how can we evolve and stay on top of the next social tipping point? 

TMP Worldwide
Written by TMP Worldwide


  1. Jason

    Social media has made old-school relationship building more important. Social media is the same stuff, just a new channel with more reach. But, Gladwell is right, it’s early and exciting to see what happens.

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