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Is 2011 the Year of Social Media?
Two ways to know that social media is here to stay
In terms of media, it takes a lot to blow me away. Not that I’m a cynic. It’s because I’ve been working professionally with the media for over 21 years and I’ve seen it evolve. I’ve lived through the days when press releases were Xeroxed and mailed with a postage stamp, the days when the fax machine was king, and finally the mail boom era electronic through an electronic database. And while I’ve marveled at these technological advances that increased the speed and reach of a PR professional, none of them have caught me off guard.
I have never seen a media tool as broad in its scope, as personal in its scope, and as effective in its use as social media. It’s so powerful that I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it and I doubt I’ll ever see anything so influential in our lives.
Let me offer two examples to demonstrate this point and then we can see its impact on your own marketing and promotion.
Occupy Wall Street – It really doesn’t matter where you fall on the politics behind the OWS movement. My only reason for bringing this up is to demonstrate the massive influence they have had in an incredibly short period of time due to their use of social media. When demonstrations in New York began on September 17 with 1,000 protesters in Zuccotti Park in Wall Street’s financial district, spurred by an email campaign by the Canadian non-profit advocacy group AdBusters, the movement was ignored by main media. Not even The New York Times (considered the local newspaper on the island of Manhattan) bothered to write about the move. A Facebook page and Twitter account were then created, which led to the creation of a website. Soon after, the group released a manifesto of sorts and sent out a call to action through their social media network for those around the world who share their views to stand up and be counted in through demonstrations. According to the Columbia Journalism Review’s New Frontier database, the team, while unofficial, runs websites such as Occupytogether.org and streams a “constant stream of updates on Twitter and Tumblr,” as well as Skype sessions with other protesters. Its reach has gone international, generating reactions from leaders and citizens of countries such as Canada, Brazil, China, Greece, India, North Korea, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, Vatican City, Venezuela and others. They don’t have a spokesperson or a leader doing the TV talk shows, instead they use social media to proliferate their cause. If they had a head of marketing, I would mortgage the house to hire him.
Bank of America Debit Card Fees – I doubt Molly Katchpole ever thought her complaint would go this far. The 22-year-old recent graduate of Roger Williams University is credited with getting Bank of America to back off plans to charge customers $5 a month for the privilege of using a debit card. How did she do it? Social networks my friends.
He posted a petition on Change.org demanding that Bank of America keep its hands out of its purse and the purses of its millions of customers. Change.org is a website that allows people to request signatures through the social media universe. Well, his petition gained so much traction that the site took over from there, soliciting more signatures and reaching out to mainstream media outlets on his behalf. She told her story on TV talk shows, coming across as brave and smart and, well, just like millions of Americans living paycheck to paycheck who really can’t afford an extra $60 a year for some which they had been using for free all along.
The end result of the campaign was that Bank of America played a beaten Goliath to Molly’s triumphant David and canceled its plans to collect the fees. When you think about it, Molly did them a favor. Based on the overwhelming response of more than 306,000 signatures, Bank of America averted a massive disaster. It doesn’t take a genius to predict what happens to a company’s stock price when they publicly lose 300,000 customers in about a month.
“Clearly, the success of his campaign is a victory for social media and a demonstration of its power to engage the masses in a cause,” said Yvette Kantrow, editor-in-chief of the Daily Deal.
I couldn’t agree with her more.
At what point in American history can you point to 1,000 people demonstrating in a public park in New York, and a few days later a message from a world leader, such as Polish President Lech Walesa, is generated in support of their efforts ? When do you remember when a 22-year-old posted a complaint on a website that caused a billion-dollar global banking powerhouse with 57 million customers to wipe out a potential annual revenue stream of about 3,400 million dollars?
It’s never happened, but with the impact of social media, you can almost count on it happening again and again.
Now, let’s bring all of that to you. Many of you already have the same tools as these people: a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a website, and an Internet connection. The issue is how social media can help you proliferate your message. In fact, the question is how can it not be done? Social media is the perfect marriage of individual and mass communication. Its tactics and tone are personal, while its scope and reach are massive.
If you’re already working on a social media campaign right now, don’t stop. But if you’re not, it’s past time to start. To those still on the sidelines waiting for some kind of signpost to conclusively demonstrate why the time and effort in social media is worth it, my advice is to look back. Really, that stake was in the ground 100 miles ago.
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