You may have heard of Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, where he discusses the moment when a notion, product, or movement gains widespread public recognition. I felt something similar last week regarding social media, but I didn't tiptoe my way into understanding. I toppled.
I'd been playing with social media for a few years. Got a website. Got a blog. Wasn't that enough? Well, maybe, until my friend Lisa Creech Bledsoe told me I needed a flickr site, so off I went into the world of photo sharing. Meanwhile, I did my share of wandering around the globe via the web. I joined some internet groups. I joined some other internet groups devoted to snail mail. All well and good, but no topple yet.
What was the magic moment, then? I was playing around on some websites devoted to finding samples and noticed a mention of free coffee. Clicking on it, I found myself on a beta registration page for Joffrey's Java. Along with mailing info, I filled in -- it was required -- my website address. As usual, I got an e-mail requesting that I click through to verify I'd registered for the sample.
At the top of the page was a live-link notice showing the number of blogs that had requested samples. Moderately curious, I clicked the link to find a long, long, long list of links to websites. And here's the curious thing: I spent the next three hours randomly clicking from one website to another, sometimes pausing only for a second, other times reading through several posts and following that site's links.
By the time I was done -- or stopped, because you're never really done, are you? -- I'd toppled, tripped, fallen into the tentacles (and I mean tentacles in the most pleasant sense; read it with the interpretation you'd give it if you were an octopus) of social media.
It's all about accessibility -- curiosity -- wanderlust -- freedom. You can start at your own desk and see wonders undreamed, find sales items unexpected, pursue ideas unsuspected. My own three-hour experience changed my questions. I used to ask why anybody needed more than one blog. Now I ask whether three is enough for me.
And did you notice that I mentioned Joffrey's Java, even though their coffee sample hasn't reached me yet.