This is a presentation of the ebook - The Revolution will Be Tweeted - and was given to the Lichtenstein Royal Family, HBS, Suffolk University, Princeton University, US Army and at a number of public events.
INTRODUCTIONChapter 1ONE MAN + SOCIAL MEDIA = COUPChapter 2TWEETS OF WRATHChapter 3A WELL-FUNDED REVOLUTIONABOUT THE AUTHORCOPYRIGHT
INTRODUCTION The rebellion that is upending the Middle East is about muchmore than a few autocratic regimes. It is a social media and mobile-technology revolution that has profound implications for governmentsand businesses all over the world. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, You-Tube, and smartphones, all of us who are fed up with top-down controlare toppling the powers-that-be in a bid to take control ourselves - andI predict we will accomplish our goals. As the events in Egypt and Tunisia have shown people can orga-nize through social networks - and even when governments shut downthe Internet, protesters can find ways to circumvent those (and other)defenses. What we’ve seen in Libya, Yemen, Iran, Syria, and evenChina is that brutal crackdowns lead to almost certain failure. But, inthe end, social movements encourage the open expression of ideas andaffirms the passions and desires of people leading to their ability toconnect, revolt, and overturn those in power. These lessons should not be lost on corporate leaders. I advisemajor global companies and government officials on how to cope withthe new world of social media and mobile technology and have builtand managed 15,000 on-line communities with 40 million users. Inthis brief e-book, I will share with you what I’ve learned.
Chapter 1 ONE MAN + SOCIAL MEDIA = COUP The Arab rebellion began when a single man, Mohamed Bouazizi,a Tunisian fruit vendor, set himself afire to protest a series of injusticesand humiliations at the hands of the regime of the longtime ruler, Zineel-Abidine Ben Ali. Bouazizi was not among the 15 percent, or 1.6million of Tunisia’s population, who use the Internet. Nevertheless,social media in the form of Facebook quickly spread the news and im-ages of his desperate act, thus inciting a spontaneous, leaderless pro-test. Activists coordinated the demonstrations on Facebook pages andwith tweets, drawing little resistance from the regime. Ironically, BenAli, who feared a coup from within the ranks of his army and securityforces, had so weakened the military as to make it impotent. Within days, the peaceful throngs demanding Ben Ali’s departureachieved their goal - but not before mobs of demonstrators gathered inthe Arab crescent from Algeria to Iran to express sympathy for the pro-testers in Tunisia while insisting on redress for their own grievances.Their forthright approach reflected the power of the second main fa-cilitator of the Arab rebellion, the satellite cable networks of the BBC,CNN, Al Jazeera, and Al Arabiya. Without their courageous and cred-ible reporting, the contagion of protest would have swept much lessquickly to Egypt, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria. Social media showcased the people’s technological ingenuityand adaptability in Egypt, where the continuance of Hosni Mubarak’s
30-year reign hinged on his ability to persuade the army to keep him inpower. After the first days of peaceful demonstrations in Cairo’s TahrirSquare, Mubarak cut off access to the Internet and sent in thugs armedwith whips, clubs, and sabers to beat and intimidate the protesters. Butthe people fought back bravely and found ways to circumvent the In-ternet shutdown. In a single weekend, Google and Twitter engineers devised aspeak-to-tweet application that let the demonstrators phone in a voice-mail, which automatically became a Twitter post. The technology en-abled leaders of the protests to coordinate demonstrations around thecountry while keeping the world informed. When the army was dis-suaded from opening fire on the Egyptian people in the square, Muba-rak fled. A Media Evolution Amidst the Revolution Social media continued to evolve over the 18-day span of theEgyptian upheaval as people came to understand its breathtaking pow-er to topple the status quo and the leaders controlling it. Facebook,the most popular social destination by far at the outset of the dem-onstrations, was dismissed by leaders as something the kids used tocommunicate and interact. It was thought to have little relevance forbusinesses, governments, and leaders. But a survey taken by Media Republic in the midst of the cha-os showed that 53 percent of respondents were now checking Twitterahead of Facebook, presumably using mobile devices. The market-ing firm found that 66 percent were using Twitter to look for bulletinsposted by news Web sites instead of accessing the sites themselves.For the first time, protesters could get real-time, on-scene reports andvideo showing, for instance, where tear gas was being used, thus allow-ing them to move to safer ground.
What is more, kids weren’t the only ones tweeting on mobile de-vices. Adults who had something to say were using Twitter to get theirmessages out. The social revolution that started and grew as a placeto connect with friends had taken on even greater and more profoundsignificance as a platform for revolt. The next major clash came in Libya. It was more difficult to or-ganize protests in a desert state that New York Times columnist ThomasFriedman describes as “a tribe with flags” as opposed to a nation likeEgypt, which has an ancient civilization and strong national identity.Perhaps more important to a social revolution, fewer than 6 percentof the 6.5 million Libyans are Internet users, and only half visit Face-book. But expatriate Libyans who had migrated to other parts of theworld were galvanized by the events in Egypt. Copying the January 25“Day of Rage” that sparked the Egyptian movement, they set February17 as Libya’s Day of Rage and created Facebook pages and Web sites,such as “Feb17.info” and “Libyafeb17.com,” and a Twitter feed called“Feb 17 Voices” to publicize events and organize support. As the protest grew, the number of Facebook and Twitter usersin Libya rose dramatically. Google set up a speak-to-tweet service forLibya, too, and Libyans used Web-radio technology to create “FreeBenghazi Radio.” A Twitter user named Arasmus assembled a mash-up map of Libya showing the location of anonymous tweeters. Userscould click on icons for each region and get information about policeactivity and protests. Jubilant demonstrators were joined by sympathizers around theworld, while fearful governments in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Syria,and Yemen nervously followed the battle. Outside of a handful of protesters who were arrested, dissent inSaudi Arabia has been held in check by King Abdullah’s promise ofhigher wages and more jobs for the 14 million or so Saudis under the
age of 30. But when turmoil in neighboring Bahrain appeared to begetting out of hand, Saudi and United Arab Emirates’ soldiers rolled into restore order. Nevertheless, fears that the world’s biggest crude-oilproducer might be forced to limit production sent global prices spiral-ing upward. Repressive Regimes Will Quake In China, too, leaders were clearly shaken by the spectacle ofpeaceful, unarmed protesters toppling autocratic regimes. By someestimates, China has quelled hundreds of thousands of mini-riots inrecent years as the populace vents its anger over legal injustices, en-vironmental threats, income inequality, and government repression ofcivil rights. Thus far, economic growth and rising prosperity for the luckyones have kept Chinese rage in check. But if protests around the vastcountry could be coordinated, the regime might be in danger. Giventhe cracks that have occurred in China’s electronically powered GreatFirewall during the Arab rebellion, allowing news of the protests toreach Chinese citizens, the authorities may have reason to worry. Andrecently, a call via social media for protest in China itself found anaudience. No wonder security forces have lately been sent into cities aroundthe country to lock down public squares and shopping malls. Foreignreporters have been detained, harassed, and in at least one instance, ajournalist was severely beaten. Equipment has been confiscated anddigital pictures forcibly erased. Odds are that the state’s rigid discipline will hold, at least fornow, but in the long run, I’d bet on the power of social media - all themore so since their use is exploding. At the end of 2010, China alonehad 384 million Internet users, and eMarketer, which provides research
and analysis, said 265 million of them used social networks, includinghomegrown Chinese networks. By 2015, eMarketer predicts that atleast 488 million Chinese will be participating in some sort of socialmedia. As the Arab rebellion has shown, the power of social media ex-pands when people use mobile devices, particularly smartphones, toexpress their feelings about business and government to the world atlarge. And now that mobile computing has arrived in force, the camp-fire that was social media is exploding into a conflagration. Facebook, which had just 50,000 mobile users in 2009, counted200 million one year later. Researchers at Morgan Stanley report that,for the first time, smartphones and tablet computers outsold desktopand laptop computers in the fourth quarter of 2010. By 2015, they pre-dict, sales of mobile devices will nearly double PC sales. In the Japanese market, the transition is nearly complete. Since2006, page views on Mixi, the country’s leading social network, haverisen nearly sixfold, to 30 billion a month. And while 86 percent of theviewers in 2006 were using PCs, fully 85 percent now use smartphonesor tablets.
Chapter 2 TWEETS OF WRATH It’s easy enough to understand why people in the Middle East,having suffered decades of repression by autocratic governments,would be angry enough to risk imprisonment, or worse, to protest theirlot and agitate for change. And even though almost no one predictedit, I can see how a Tunisian fruit vendor’s self-immolation could sparkthe full-throated protest that then touched off a conflagration that hasspread across the entire region. What isn’t always obvious - though it’s very real - is the bub-bling cauldron of long-simmering rage that threatens leadership of ev-ery kind, be it of national governments or businesses, both here in theUnited States and around the globe. The Tea Party movement, a right-wing phenomenon that vocif-erously demands smaller government and fiscal discipline, is, to date,the most visible sign of this rage in the United States. But the TeaParty is just the discernible part of a looming iceberg. Still largely hid-den is the enormous anger and sense of unfairness bred over a centuryof autocratic behavior by the heads of some of our largest and mostwell-known institutions, whether they be the leaders of our purportedlydemocratic governments or the executives of the businesses for whichwe work, from whom we buy, and in whose stocks we invest. Broad-based anger and people’s ability to share that angercreated an embarrassing situation for Chrysler when a disgruntled
employee of its social media agency mistakenly posted an off-colortweet on the car company’s Twitter account rather than on the em-ployee’s personal account. The tweet derided Detroit’s abilities: “Ifind it ironic that Detroit is called the Motor City and yet no one hereknows how to f***ing drive.” Chrysler quickly responded on its blog, dismissing its social me-dia firm amid speculation that it might retreat to the perceived safetyof its traditional advertising agency. Lauded for its swift and honestresponse to the rogue tweet, Chrysler was nevertheless criticized forlooking backward to an old media model when what it apparently needsis an agency well versed in managing real-time communications. ESPN felt the sting of condemnation when its attempt to controlemployees’ online connections came to light in August 2009. The crit-ics characterized the company’s policy as “extremely strict.” ESPN,of course, didn’t see it that way, saying that its “first and only priority”was “to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, infor-mation and content.” One rule banned personal Web sites and blogs that include sportscontent, another demanded that employees receive permission from asupervisor before participating in social networking related to sports,a third gave ESPN the right to review all posted content, and a fourthcautioned against discussing internal ESPN reporting, writing, andediting policies. ESPN also reserved the right to use its employees’sports-related social media content. A series of seemingly common-sense guidelines - don’t tweet something you wouldn’t say on air orwrite in a column, be mindful that you represent ESPN, be respectfulof colleagues and fans - rounded out the list. The reaction was mixed. Some people thought the rules weredraconian; others viewed them as a reasonable requirement aimed atmaking its paid employees protect the brand. Brand protection had nothing to do with the firing of an em-
ployee at American Medical Response of Connecticut (AMR). Shewas let go for posting unflattering comments about her supervisorand for responding to co-workers’ comments on Facebook. But theemployee didn’t go quietly, deciding to file a complaint with the Na-tional Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In February 2011, the NLRBdetermined that AMR’s blogging and Web posting policy was overlybroad. Now AMR is rewriting its policy to make sure it doesn’t il-legally stop its people from discussing pay and working conditionswith their peers. As these incidents suggest, revolt is not just fomenting in theMiddle East, but right where you and I live and work. In short, we areall fed up.
Chapter 3 A WELL-FUNDED REVOLUTION Past revolutions have been decidedly unequal, pitting barefootsans-culottes against French aristocrats and low-paid factory workersagainst wealthy industrialists. But this one is different. Social mediaare powerful because they have been created and funded by some ofthe same people they are destined to overthrow. Facebook, Twitter, andYouTube were developed by entrepreneurs and financed by world-classventure capitalists to rake in profits. Most of these people operate ascapitalists always have, using traditional modes of governance. During most of the Industrial Age, there were good reasons forrunning governments and businesses the way they were run. Managerscharged with reducing the cost of goods and services to citizens, cus-tomers, and employees consolidated power and were rewarded for it.But today’s leaders don’t truly understand that the day of from-the-topdecision-making is finished, and a mindset that once made them greatis now killing them. Indeed, their outdated style of management is ac-tually hastening the revolution and ultimately their own demise. Given the cost of information, returns will be reduced along withincreased access and innovation. But as the world begins to open upand share ideas, the old asymmetry of information and control that cre-ated outsized returns for leaders and institutional investors will fade. At last count, Facebook was valued at $50 billion and Twitter at$10 billion, while startups like LivingSocial and Groupon are worth
billions more. These enormous valuations suggest that the power ofthe crowd and open access is growing. Nevertheless, untold millionsof VC dollars will continue to be raised because investors don’t real-ize they are funding the agent of their demise. Instead, they will con-tinue to reduce the cost of connecting, putting more and more rebelson the front lines of monumental change. Already, you can publish abook on Amazon.com for $1.99, or build a Web site on GoDaddy for$7.49 a month. The revolution has not only begun; it is capturing oncewell-barricaded landmarks at a rapid pace (think the demise of Block-buster). The problem is that most business leaders, institutional investors,and corporate directors still don’t understand the threat posed by socialmedia and mobile technologies. Nor do they grasp the significance ofthe crowds that are using the new technologies to express their unhap-piness to like-minded others - be they customers, employees, investors,or citizens of our outmoded of governance. Like China’s leaders, man-agers think they can ride out any storm by battening down the hatches,enlisting loyal seamen and women, and holding to their course. Theirpolicy might work for a while if they hew to the following time-hon-ored tactics:• Enforce traditional discipline. Monitor all computers, phone calls, and e-mail traffic. Limit technology to what you can con- trol. Don’t hand out iPhones and forbid access to social media; just because information has been made public, that doesn’t give your people the right to know it. Even the supposedly modern Obama administration tried to deny government workers access to the WikiLeaks trove of State Department cables.• Keep close the cards you are dealt; censor information. Tell em- ployees and customers only what you think they need to know about your plans, operations, and financial well-being. Make
sure everything posted on your Web site, including any customer comments or product reviews, toes the company line.• Control communication within the company. Make sure all mes- sages flow through the main office. Never allow the branches to speak directly to one another. Similarly, discourage fraterni- zation between departments, and don’t promote people across divisional lines.• Continue to use old technologies. Make sure you invest in tradi- tional on-premise computing and software. In essence, stay with what you know and avoid today’s reality. After the Short-Term Reprieve At best, these tactics are the counsel of despair. No matter howfuriously antediluvian leaders try to hold back the tide, social mediawill create transparency and conventional governance will be over-thrown. Especially in the corporate world, events and conditions oftenconspire to defeat secrecy and the leadership models and forms of gov-ernance it engenders. Endlessly copied and transmitted from one hard drive to thenext, digital information piles up and multiplies, making it impossibleto keep track of, let alone secure. As The Economist recently observed,companies that were once safe boxes for information are becomingmore like sieves, spilling data through every pore. Bradley Manning,the soldier accused of leaking State Department secrets to WikiLeaks,allegedly downloaded and sent some 250,000 documents with a fewclicks of a mouse. A few years ago, it would have taken him months oryears to photocopy and smuggle out all those papers. And whether organizations like it or not, we are in the early stag-es of an explosion of information and mobile technologies that willempower all of the people, with the cloud serving as the repository
from which information can be cheaply scattered everywhere to every-one. The market research firm IDC reckons that the Digital Universe,the amount of digital information created in a year, totaled less thanone zettabyte (1 trillion gigabytes, or 250 billion DVDs) in 2009. By2020, IDC predicts, the year’s output will be 35 zettabytes. And bythen, smartphones and tablets will outnumber PCs, spewing out dataand sending what used to be secrets to anyone, in real time, on the go. New firewalls and leak-detection systems come on the marketevery month, but in the long run, the confluence of the cloud, usermobility, and social media will break down the walls that business andgovernment have and continue to erect. We will all have to live with,and even embrace, transparency and engagement as a way of life, andthat will be a good thing. Productivity will increase, and transparencywill defuse the pent-up anger now threatening institutions of all kinds,including businesses. A few corporate leaders understand the dangers they face. Writ-ing in the March 2011 Harvard Business Review, Dominic Barton,managing director of McKinsey & Company, warned of rising publicanger toward both business and government. Capitalism must reformor confront rebellion, he said. Among other things, Barton’s “Capital-ism for the Long Term” argues that companies must focus not on short-term profits but on serving the interests of all their major stakehold-ers, including customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and eventhe environment. He presents this proposition in the familiar guise ofmaximizing long-term value to shareholders, but I think that’s a figleaf. His true objective is sheer survival. If business doesn’t change itsbasic ways, he writes, “the social contract between the capitalist systemand the citizenry may truly rupture, with unpredictable but severelydamaging results.” A very few leaders are already operating in a style suited tothe new social-media world. Warren Buffett, famed as the “Sage of
Omaha” and CEO of the phenomenally successful Berkshire Hatha-way holding company, cheerfully owns up to his mistakes and makesno pretense of being indispensable. In one of his avidly read annualreports, he told stockholders, with Twitter-like candor, that they wouldhave been better off if he hadn’t come to work all year. But no one wasput off. After all, $1,000 invested in Berkshire Hathaway in January1990 was worth $12,000 20 years later. That’s nearly triple the rise inVanguard’s Standard & Poor’s 500 Index Fund. Equally impressive is the transformation of General Electric,once the showpiece of the autocratic Jack Welch. His successor at GE,CEO Jeffrey Immelt, has opted for social-media style transparency,corporate humility, and vulnerability. Speaking at the Web 2.0 Sum-mit in San Francisco in October 2009, Immelt noted that “if you’re notwilling to be completely transparent on just about everything you do,and if you can’t tolerate life in a world where you’re sharing informa-tion openly, where you’re getting input from lots of different people,where they have the ability to critique, criticize, have inputs . . . youbetter find a new profession.” Today’s world is about “transparency,openness, two-way dialogue with your constituents,” he added. GE guides, advises, and counsels its customers, showing themhow to improve their operations even if it means less business for GE.A GE medical service that used to be all about billable hours and ef-ficiency now focuses on patient services and pays heed to the feelingsof its doctors and nurses. A Handbook for the Savvy Buffett and Immelt are the rare birds in the corporate leadershipaerie, because negotiating the transition to a new style of managementis simply too difficult for many leaders. But if you are a traditional bosswith vision for your future that includes participation, transparency, and
engagement, and you want to embrace today’s growing social-mediarevolution, here’s what you must do:• Admit that what you’re doing is wrong - wrong for your business, wrong for your stakeholders, wrong for yourself in the long run. In other words, acknowledge that what made you successful will no longer keep you successful. It will seem like an inconceivable betrayal of faith, but it is essential.• Accept that your customers, your employees, and your inves- tors are angry - at you for the way you have treated them, the products you have sold them, and the support you have provided them. Apologize in every way possible, including a Facebook post and a tweet. You can explain why you thought you had to act the way you did, but you must be genuinely contrite and ask forgiveness. Obviously, it won’t be easy.• Change as quickly as you can given the speed of the social revo- lution. That will be the most difficult of all. Embark on a journey of understanding, trying to see things from your stakeholders’ points of view. Become compassionate, embrace transparency, and be willing to sacrifice short-term profit for sustainable opera- tions in a new world.• Allow people to connect, and welcome the suggestions they offer based on what they have learned. Encourage communications and tweets across divisional lines. Eliminate huge pay discrep- ancies between executives and workers, and cut your own bonus and stock options to prove your sincerity.• Embrace social media, the cloud and mobile devices - and this is perhaps most important in terms of your business success. These technologies can help you run your company more productively and efficiently by engaging all constituents in open and honest, two-way communications. Others are already on board. IDC
estimates that fully 1 billion workers, or 25 percent of the global workforce, are equipped with company-issued mobile devices, and the numbers will only grow. The benefits from using social and mobile technologies aremyriad. For instance, you can cut recruiting costs by using Twitter orLinkedIn to reach potential employees, and a Facebook page can con-nect your brand to customers and prospects who might ignore conven-tional advertisements, broadcasts, and publications. New technologiessuch as sentiment tracking and social-media analytics can help you ac-cess and understand what people are saying about you, and how theyfeel about your product, service, and organization. Social media in conjunction with mobile and cloud technologieswill make it easier for your customers and prospects to do business withyou. For example, 1st Guard, a company that specializes in selling in-surance policies to truckers, allows drivers to use their smartphonesto fill out and electronically sign an application. A driver on the roadcan apply in the time it takes to fill the truck’s tank with diesel, while acompany operator monitors the process to make sure all the blanks arefilled correctly. Some retailers are using GPS to send advertisements to the mo-bile devices of potential customers in the vicinity of their stores. Suchlocation-based services can be fine-tuned to take into account the de-vice owner’s age, gender, occupation, and personal preferences. Theresearch and analysis firm, Gartner, is advising companies to developspecialized applications that allow mobile-phone owners to researchproducts, compare prices, and then, with the information in hand, buythe product on the spot. Social networks and mobile devices are becoming more useful.Witness the Arab rebellion and also the devastating Japanese earthquakeand tsunami that struck on March 10, 2011. With power and landline
phone service dead, the owners of smartphones and tablet computerscould still get on the Internet to access e-mail, Skype, Facebook, andTwitter. In the coming months, as Japan turns from rescue and reliefoperations to the long, slow business of reconstruction, it’s safe to saythat the social networks will play more new and unforeseen roles. Now is the time for all government and business leaders to em-brace the open and social world. Otherwise, you will put our traditionsof free speech, democracy, and capitalism at risk. As the very prin-ciples that inspired the social revolution in the first place, denying theirconsequences would surely lead to a rage likely to spin out of controlbecause we, the people, now have the power. So get on board and starttweeting your own revolution, or risk being upended by those who canand will Tweet theirs: The rest of the world!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Barry Libert is the founder of Mzinga, a leading social softwarefirm, and the CEO of OpenMatters, a company that helps businessesand governments embrace social media and mobility to prosper.