2011 is the Year of Living Dangerously for media. It is the year Social Media came of age and traditional media finally took notice of its young upstart sibling.

The Arab Spring, the Singapore Elections, London Riots and the Rupert Murdoch owned News of the World Phone Tapping scandal were some of the major news points that spread like wildfire from one device, laptop, mobile to another.

The people of Egypt inspired by small “campfire” jolts of collective consciousness successfully overthrew the long serving despot Hosni Mubarak, no less inspired by an executive working for one of the poster children of  social media, Google. While others in the Arab world are continuing to varying degrees the struggle to overcome oppressive regimes. The most telling was obviously the Iranian protests in the streets of Teheran which were broadcast on YouTube and tweets updating the world outside.

All of these monumental events, social, collective have come together as social media connects more and more people around the world. Regimes called governments are unable to curb the flow and tide.

What can we do? If you cannot beat them, join them they say…

As communications practitioners, we must embrace this revolution. It is all pervasive and yet very poorly understood in my opinion. Technology, is a core element, but is only an enabler. The old rules of what makes a story, what makes people re-tweet or make a piece of news go viral have not changed.

In his book,The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, talks exactly about what makes fads, fashion and experiences go viral and popular. His exploration of the factors that tip a fad to “go massive” are uncannily apparent every time a widescale social phenomenon shook the world; including when the original King Kong the movie became a global sensation, or when Pele became a true great in football or when Gnarls Barkley’s Crazybecame the most downloaded song in the history of the Internet.

Recognising what these factors are and how they inter-relate and coexist in the offline and online world is critically essential to any practitioner. We need to embrace the new phenomenon and become funny, interesting and thought provoking publishers – all of us. Scary isn’t it? But what a ride its going to be.