“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”  — General George S. Patton.

“…Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” – Thomas Jefferson.

Neither General George nor President Thomas could conceive of fiber-optic cable. Breaking the German siege of Bastogne would have been so much easier with Internet telephony. Imagine Thomas Jefferson tweeting about the Declaration of Independence and then letting all of his friends know about it on Facebook?

The Economist’s http://www.economist.com/  special report on Social Networking offers some staggering numbers. Facebook www.facebook.com has 350 million users, making it the third largest “nation” in the world after China and India. That’s pretty impressive for a firm that was created in a Harvard dorm room by Mark Zuckerberg in 2003. Sorry Thomas, the Facebook nation is even bigger than the one that you and an earlier George W. founded.

There is more, much more. Facebook, the world’s second most accessed URL after Google, is updated 55 million times daily and 3.5 pieces of content are shared among the users each week. Facebook is bigger than any television network on the planet. The tremendous growth of Facebook, Twitter www.twitter.com, LinkedIn.com www.linkedin.com validates the “network effect,” meaning that the value of a communications network rises exponentially with the number of connected users.

Does that mean the hot social media site of today will be the hot social media site of tomorrow? Ask MySpace, which saw its share of the US social media market plummet from 67 percent to 30 percent in just one year. The innovators will keep innovating and those on top should never be comfortable. The winners of tomorrow may not even be born today.

What does the growth of conversational marketing via social media mean to professional communicators? One thing is certain is that we have to compete in this digital marketplace of ideas. Suppression of competing thoughts and ideas as difficult as it was in the past is just impossible now.

China may temporarily block this social media site or that social media outlet, but pretty soon the math gets out of control. Let’s see: 1.2 billion people, millions of PCs, thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable and oodles of ideas, ideas and even more ideas.

As Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) in the “Dead Pool” said, “Opinions are like (fill in the blank). Everyone has one.”

As professional communicators, we need to use our diplomacy and tact to deliver an important message to management: We aren’t just competing to make the sale, attract investors, hire the best and the brightest, we are in an eternal public relations tug-of-war made both easier and more difficult by ubiquitous uploading of information via digital technology. Just as social media with its ones and zeroes can make it easier to reach literally millions of users instantaneously, these same tools can be harnessed by competitors to “deposition” your company, your NGO, your educational institution, your government entity.

As we set out to compete, we need to realize that getting unanimous agreement for the product, concept or idea that we are peddling is not possible (save Steve Jobs and the iPad). Instead, we need to employ our skills and wits to develop winning strategies, bringing a critical mass behind our noble cause.

What did General Patton say about letting the other guy die for his country?

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