How much did social networking have to do with the fact that we watched Barack Obama sworn in as the 44th president of the United States? From this voter’s perspective, a lot. Yes, it helped that there was a former Facebook member on the Obama staff, but more than this are the millions of Facebookers, voters all, who understand that social media sites now play two critical roles in their lives. First, it’s a way for them to keep track of their friends, virtual and otherwise, the initial reason for the existence of Facebook and the others. But more germane to politics and inaugurations, social media has become a way, if not the way, to spread and vet opinions about everything from music, to sports, cars, clothing, movies and political candidates. It’s the way a fast-growing and increasingly older number of people stay plugged in to what’s important. According to David Kirkpatrick, Senior Editor, Internet and Technology at Fortune magazine, Twitter and its tweeting are miniscule in their influence compared to the burgeoning communication power of Facebook. As he told me, “For anyone to dismiss it as a digital diversion for the younger set is a big, big mistake.” The net-net for brands is that anything with this much consumer engagement can - and will - be turned into a platform for consumer buying decisions. Ask brand Obama. He’ll tell you it’s branding change you’d better believe in.