Fortune Most Powerful Women 2012Nilofer Merchant is author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, a new e-book that posits that the key to business survival in today’s world goes beyond “social media,” or a discussion of how social media tools enhance communication. Rather, “social,” in Merchant’s words “with a capital S” embraces “social” for the value — economic and otherwise — connecting diverse people inside and outside your organization creates.

For example, look at the educational and economic value created when organizing and connecting individuals toward a common cause. One example is the TED conference and free videos spawning its spinoffs, TEDx and TEDMED. These provide a platform for others to curate events around specific topics that include disparate players, whether you’re talking geographically, philosophically, or politically.

Another example of value-via-social is the power of open-source software in its ability to build the best free software (e.g. WordPress, Firefox, Gimp, etc.) from the collective efforts of the community. An everyday example is the stunning success of Facebook to gravitate previously disconnected individuals toward a common goal (magnificently demonstrated by Facebook activity at play during this election cycle).

“Each of these are ways in which organizations are taking advantage of seemingly disconnected individuals and gaining power by bringing them together,” explains Merchant in a Q&A with Ashley Fidel.

Fidel opens the interview by writing:

In #SocialEra, Nilofer offers a framework for pursuing openness, fluidity, and flexibility so companies can act less like ‘800-pound gorillas’ and more like ‘800 gazelles,’ swiftly moving together to outrun the competition.

One key for a business to move like “800 gazelles” is through the production, management, and distribution of content.

Not coincidentally, we’re talking “BIG” content — in-depth, complex content produced by the talents of many — that leverages social with a capital “S” to produce a competitive advantage. That’s because if you dream of social interaction and advocacy on your business’s behalf you must provide valuable content — so valuable, in fact, that it is distributed (shared) by those inside and outside your organization. That’s how content can catapult a business ahead of competitors.

“That’s all very interesting, but frankly, so what?,” asks Dr. John H. Vanston at regular intervals in the book, MiniTrends: How Innovators & Entrepreneurs Discover & Profit From Business & Technology Trends [disclosure: a SixEstate client].

Dr. Vanston hosted a first-ever conference on identifying and capitalizing on minitrends this week. Social with a “capital S” is just such a minitrend on the edge of mainstream explosion. That’s because so many businesses are still stuck in the mindset that sees social, “small s” as a collection of tools, not Social, “big S,” as a means for connecting people on behalf of economic transformation, and, not incidentally, greater good.

Here’s how blogs, plural, big “S,” will play a part of in this shift:

1. Blogs foster direct communication between readers and journalists, allowing for both parties to influence each other in pursuit of discovery. The economic implication here is seen in the rise of citizen journalism and people participating in media discourse (as humorously seen this week with reaction to the phrase, “Binders of Women”).

2. Blogs create connective tissue between academic research, news reporting, public relations, and social participation, each strengthening the value of the other and presenting niche topics, explored, curated and distilled, for people in one place. This serves as a valuable resource where the value of additional content grows over time.

3. People, again: Blogs, and groups of blogs covering similar topics, can work to cohesively, exhaustively, and rapidly examine a topic that old media could not dare approach. As the phrase goes, “no one is as smart as everyone.” Today, everyone has a voice, and blogs are the easiest form of entry into a global conversation.

That’s the #socialera.

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