“Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy.”
This startling postulation, written approximately ten years ago by Cluetrain Manifesto co-author David Weinberger (@dweinberger), could not have been more prescient as it clearly describes the power, altruism and utility of horizontal connections and conversations currently taking place everyday among people and their communities. Power no longer flows from the top and that is just fine with me.
Before the hyperlink essentially altered how information was put together and shared and before it fundamentally transformed, for some progressive thinkers, how business hierarchies were imagined and practiced, the ruling mantra was as the 17th century French author La Rochefoucauld advanced: “It is not enough that I succeed. It is also necessary that my friends fail.” Thankfully, in the age of the hyperlink as well as Web 2.0, Social Media, and personalized, substantive information that knows no boundaries, this outdated way of thinking and doing business is receding into the shadows. Genuine connections between people with like-minded interests and passions are being easily formed, nurtured and are resulting in mutually beneficial relationships and rewards.
“Hyperlinks are in fact conversations”
Importantly, and quite beneficial for young communicators, in the age of Web 2.0 and Social Media, the people of experience and authority are now willing and able to deftly share what they have found to work best in their respective industries and careers, what doesn’t work and what they themselves are most passionate about. Thought Leaders are having altruistic conversations with everyone – online and in the real world – because in the digital, social marketplace of ideas, everyone’s voices count. These new influencers understand this fact, and quite frankly, this perceptive understanding is part of the reason they are Thought Leaders in the first place.
I began to think about this fascinating topic with greater keenness after recently engaging myself, with some people on Twitter, as well as on some other social media networks. I am in essence just starting out in the communications field (I have the education and some real world experience, but I’m looking for and craving more practical, “in the trenches” experience) and I will graduate with a M.A. in PR and Advertising in December. I mention this not because I’m being immodest, but because it gives some context to my main point.
Although I do not have many years of experiential experience in the fields I’m most passionate about – Public Relations, Marketing and Journalism, I have jumped in – transparently and passionately, in reading blogs, books, professional communicator’s Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr streams, white papers and presentations. And through listening to, participating in and creating and sharing content myself, reaching out to this community that I am most ardent about has enabled me to make connections and form relationships with people, which would be virtually impossible in the days before a “hyperlinked” way of thinking and doing business – possibly because of technology and/or because of structures and fear.
No more. For one brief example, I recently wrote a post on this blog and included some solid content from knowledgeable industry sources that would be helpful for us as young communicators. I then linked to their respective blogs etc. I tweeted about the post on Twitter, mentioning one specific sources’ contribution when I later updated the post. He soon took the time to retweet it, leave a comment on my blog and consequently the post was then retweeted by other folks who no doubt saw it in his Twitter stream (I say this because they were not yet followers of mine). Because of his effort, I’m now even more interested in and give well-deserved credence to what he writes about and the experiences he has while working in communications, public relations and marketing. And hopefully, in return I can offer him some insight into topics or issues that interest him.
In my opinion, this is one small example of how passion, engagement and altruism can engender and equal horizontal, mutually beneficial and genuine relationships in the age of social media, and quite significantly, can continue to imbue the practice of public relations with meaning and value.
*Update* For further, rich context along the same lines as the topic of the post above, see this piece by Jonathan Stray (@jonathanstray) on the value and purpose of linking out in journalistic articles. Reasons #1, & #3 for linking out that Stray includes is especially relevant and adds illustration and context to the point of my post. Good piece, check it out!