Never before in history has an idea had as much power as it does now. NEVER! Oh, sure, Gutenbergs printing press was a big deal in 1439 and it opened the doors for the first wave of mass communication ushering in the Renaissance, but it was pushing information to a world population of about 390,000,000, most of which could not read, while our modern printing press, the internet, pushes ideas to a global population of 7.2 billion. Though only +/- 39% have internet access, it is showing a global growth of +/- 676%! Ideas are EVERYWHERE
Ideas have a myriad avenues to achieve their birth, gain momentum and become real, mostly created by the universal power of the internet. So much so that social media is now the driving force in the spread of new concepts. It has created its own language from the text message abbreviations too numerous to list (or for me to understand) to core terms like firewall and bandwidth, but one of the most accurate is the term “going viral.”
Let’s start with the medical birth of the term virus. A virus is an infective agent with a unique characteristic, it can only multiply within a living host cell. On its own, it dies. A virus moves by vectors, such as rats, fly’s, bodily fluids or maybe a mosquito. An internet mimic of this behavior is when an idea is launched, by itself it has little power, but insert it within the host of a social media site and provide it a vector such as word of mouth and watch out, it can take over the world.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example. It started a little over a month ago and was not directly tied to ALS. Florida golfer Chris Kennedy had his trainer James Whatmore participate, in what was already a fad, in pouring the ice water over his head. Kennedy’s wife started a YouTube channel in a couple of day had over 400 videos posted. One of the first challenged was Chris’s wife’s cousin, whose husband , Anthony, suffered from ALS. Chris donated $100 to ALS and the next thing you know, the virus was born. It imbedded itself in the social media universe and was passed on and on and on, spreading just like a medical virus.
Movie, sport and political stars have all caught this viral idea and The ALS Association has become the biggest winner. The estimate is now an impact of $22 million. How big is this idea impact? The same period last year generated $1.9 million.
Welcome to the era of ideas!