The rapid adoption of social media technology and it’s use in many recent political movements (The Arab spring revolutions for example) has led many analysts to laude the platforms of twitter and Facebook as revolutionary catalysts and perhaps even essentials.
The strength of these platforms, of course, is their ability to more easily establish and maintain weak ties and to spread information rapidly and reliably to said ties. However, I think the role of these tools has been a bit overstated, though certainly not imagined.
This article by Malcolm Gladwell (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/10/04/101004fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all), published in the New Yorker in 2010, examines the intersection of social media and activism as contrasted mainly with the Civil rights movement in America in the 1960’s The argument essentially is that the kind of activism that makes real change is sacrificial and confrontational, in often fatal ways, and that the people who join in these movements predominately do it because of some close interpersonal tie, a strong tie.
The weak tie lends itself to dissemination and low risk sympathy and interaction, something that can be leveraged in useful and innovative ways, but often is not (see: Kony 2012)
However, I think it is faulty to discount the potential impact of social media networks if only for the idea that as they become more entrenched in our lives it is with the aid of these networks that we will proceed to form strong ties. At this point it is unthinkable for friends growing closer to not at some point re-tweet some things the other has said, and good luck in a relationship where you refuse to follow your girlfriend on instagram.
Ultimately, in the realm of social movements I think that the role of the weak tie may have been overstated, but as we move forward any potential gains will come from learning to leverage the power of multiple low commitment activities (micro donations for example) while simultaneously investigating whether social media networks can convert strong ties to weak ones, perhaps by having a greater prevalence of triadic closure pressure.