Socialganda = Social Media + Propaganda. Socialganda.

Almost a century ago, Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays pretty much fathered what we came to know as Propaganda.

Bernays understood the susceptibility of crowds to manipulation – thus the benefits of being Freud’s nephew. Bernays also understood the properties and possibilities of the technological conditions of his time. As a consequence of both understandings, he was able to fashion powerful ways of forging consent, changing behaviors and maintaining and growing the powers of new or status quo interests.

Soon, someone – or a group of people – can build new theories and practices with which exploit both the latest understanding of human psychology and the technological conditions of this century.

If they can, then they will.

You may not think so – especially if you’re a big fan of Social Media, and you believe that these evolving media are inherently democratizing.

Either way, I encourage you to watch this clip and think about how a 21st Century Bernays would use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube et al – for good or ill (if you’re short on time, go to 2:43 minutes):

My sense: Socialganda is achievable. Social and other digital media and technologies make it both easy and hard – easy because the tools are proliferative and easy-to-use; hard because they require constant attention and investment and creativity. Given sufficient capital, technological and labor resources, however, states, corporations, political action groups, terrorist networks, etc. can deploy successful operations.

To appreciate the possible future, consider the traditional function of Intelligence agencies. The primary role of Intelligence agencies is Public Relations. The “spy” stuff is important but not primary (although they make for more interesting movies). The ROI on shifting public opinion is far greater on effecting change than the complex “on-the-ground, behind-the scenes” work and logistics.

There’s no more effective way to sway public opinion than to conduct an operation right in front of the public. Every day we see operations but don’t really *see* them – either because of the “eyes wide shut” phenomenon and/or the cognitive dissonance and other cognitive biases we all have inherent in our monkey minds. This is why these  operations can be so effective. Throw social media and increasing digital ADHD into the mix, and I expect to see in a few years an even more easily manipulated public.

Given enough resources and willpower and diligence, Socialganda will become a powerful new mode of ensuring that special interests proliferate and maintain their hold.

It’s not all bad: you can develop your own Socialganda skills, or at least be on guard and keep in mind that the Internet is pretty much a hallucinogen. Knowing where you are is part of finding the exit.

Anyhoo, I’ve just coined a new word for the 21st Century: Socialganda.

I have no doubt this will happen. The question is: who will be the skillful exploiters of this new iteration of propaganda? Or will we all be the propagandists, mutually misleading ourselves off the proverbial cliff of ignorance?

Socialganda. Get ready for it.




  1. And I continued the conversation over there since I think it’s critical.

    BTW, I just nominated that blog for a Top 10 Social Media award at You need to have at least two nominations to get considered so you might alert some of your other followers to check out the contest. They need to include some market specific blogs in their list!

  2. I’m sure socialganda is achievable. But what would you use it for, especially in the health arena? Bernay’s form of propoganda was used to build new markets for things that weren’t good for us or our planet (tobacco, junk food, soft drinks, bigger cars, bigger homes, etc.). So now we have obesity, diabetes, lung cancer, pollution, foreclosures, increased cases of depression, stress etc. It seems to me we have to appeal to intellect over desire to convince people to change unhealthy habits over the long-term. And social media gives us that vehicle to pass on pieces of information that can help people make more educated choices.

    This is a great subject for debate.

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