One of the most obvious ways to shed light on how social networks function and how brands move along networks is to look at the Green Movement. It demonstrates the slow adaptation of “all brands green” as fostered by information moving through networks of individuals.
Too often, we forget that social networks are comprised of living human beings that function and morph across time and channels. The tools that bind these people are only tools that facilitate their existence. Thereby, a club is not a social network. MySpace is not a social network, nor is Facebook. Take away the structure of the tool and a network ever more real still exists.
An article in the July 31, 2006 issue of The Nation features a talk with Jerome Ringo, Chairman of the Board of the National Wildlife Federation. Until very recently, the green movement remained the realm of the well-to-do, started by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and company. Ringo wants to bring varying constituencies together across class and racial lines to build a broader and more powerful green movement. His chosen vehicle, besides the NWF, is the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor unions, environmental groups, business leaders and elected officials that advocates a massive green jobs and development program for the United States.
Meanwhile, a recent NewsWeek article talks about the emergence of LOHAS, consumers following a lifestyle of health and sustainability. The associated brands range from Toyota’s forward-thinking Prius, a hybrid car combining a gas engine and an emissions-free electric motor to achieve amazing fuel economy, and Verdant, a green-focused magazine published by Cottages & Gardens, to Wal-Mart, who overnight became the largest purchaser of organic cotton for clothing and Grist.org, an environmental news and commentary site founded by Chip Giller in 1999.
Clusters of people in highly connected “green” groups quickly become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or “degrees” separate LOHAS from, say, guerilla gardeners and to follow how the brands get carried through the respective communication channels both online and offline.
Essentially, it’s all about how the seeds are planted and sowed.