In other words: Out of sight, out of mind.
Ever wonder why Sally Struthers needs to show us little Ethiopian babies before we’ll give away a bit of dough to them? Easy; it’s because we don’t care– until it’s right in front of us. Would those Ethiopian babies need feeding if their plight was broadcast into every home?
Ever wonder why Big Brother is so powerful? It’s because his message is everywhere. You can’t escape it. Even if you disagree at first, over time it’ll end up convincing you, just because you’re hearing more of it than anything else. Would Big Brother be as frightening if he only had a low-budget 30-second commercial that played on late night television?
The supremely visible are supremely powerful. Because they can make their will known, over time, it becomes the will of the people. Their opinions become the zeitgeist.
The invisible are largely impotent. Because they can’t influence others to their point of view, their will is largely their own. If they are wronged, they need to resort to other means to obtain justice– or anything else they want.
The rule of law keeps the biggest and toughest from overpowering the weakest. If you wipe out police and legal repercussions, you would quickly see a transformation in power structures that would bring the largest and strongest back up to the top– specifically in smaller communities that aren’t dominated by other forms of power (ie, wealth).
As law is to the weak, new media is to the invisible. Now, everyone has the ability to be #1 on Google for a problem they have, or can publicize their own revolution, no matter how small.
But among those who are gaining back visibility are those that are choosing to become extremely visible. Some people have done it just with Twitter. Others use every channel available to them. How you become visible will influence where your power flows.
This is why the medium is the message. People who use tools like foursquare will come to be known locally due to their influence in bringing others to a new venue. Social graphs based on other metadata– or social objects– will do the same in their spheres.
As always, the most important thing is to become visible, to build the channel, before the need. And as always, those with some forms of existing advantage will use it in this new space.
But the creation of new tools allows users a kind of jumping point. Chris, Gary, or whomever may have been huge with their respective platforms but them bringing the audiences onto Twitter allowed them to leap further forward, faster than they would have otherwise, gaining a lead that is now very hard to beat. You can do the same.
Power has always been dependent on visibility. But now is the time when there are more places– you could almost call them markets– to develop visibility and attention. This leaves you a better chance than you would ever have had when the barriers to entry were high.
So get to it.