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don’t underestimate the internet

The power of a single person on the Internet has become more and more apparent. Companies and governments are not safe from the people.  Something that social marketing consultants, like myself, will often remind their clients of is the difference between traditional marketing and social marketing. Traditional marketing is one-sided. You create your brand and present it to the public. You tell your consumer what you want to and can control your message. Social marketing has turned the tables into a multi-sided conversation. Although you can still create your branding and the image you want to project, ultimately your customers will respond to your message and want to interact with you. Positive interaction is then promoted, viewed, and passed on to friends. It is like trackable word of mouth. And how your company handles your negative interactions is also scrutinized and passed on.

The power that I am talking about is how much of a voice the Internet has given back to the public. Let’s jump around a bit and look at some of these phenomena.

SOPA and PIPA

As I spoke about a few weeks ago in my post, SOPA stands for the “Stop Online Piracy Act.” This was a proposal that was moving towards becoming a law at the federal level, supposedly about Internet piracy. The problem with this, was the wording was incredibly vague and appeared to severely restrict Internet usage.

On January 18, 2012, multiple sites, including the English version of Wikipedia, Reddit, Google, WordPress, and over 7,000 other websites participated in either a service blackout or made some sort of post or movement on their sites to raise awareness of the dangerous of these acts. Google also had a petition that gained over 7 million signatures. Boycotts happened of companies that supported the legislation, state representatives were contacted, and an offline rally was even held in New York City.

What happened next was amazing. Representatives and companies that had supported the bills the day before started backing off of them and slowly, the acts came off the table. This does not mean that the ideas behind legislation is completely gone, but it was an incredibly show of what people on the Internet could do together.

Komen vs. Planned Parenthood

On January 31, 2012, the Susan G. Komen organization, a breast-cancer organization in the United States, cut off its funding of Planned Parenthood. While many anti-abortion groups applauded the move, the public was not impressed. Women’s advocacy groups were fast to criticize the move, stating that the Komen organization was putting politics ahead of women’s health. The following 24 hours generated a lot of buzz around the Internet. $400,000 was given to Planned Parenthood from over 6,000 donors. New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, pledge a grant of $250,000 that matched a gift from the CEO of Bonanza Oil Co. They did this to replace the funding that was lost.

On February 3, 2012, just three days later, Komen’s board of directors issued a statement apologizing to the American public. They backed down from their previous statement, and instead said they would continue to fund exisiting grants, including Planned Parenthood. Four days later, on February 7, the director of Komen submitted her resignation, which went into effect immediately.

And these aren’t the only examples, and it is certainly not ONLY happening in the United States. In 2011, Tunsia decided it was time to boot out dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Social media and the Internet played an encouraging role in the success of their protests. Wikileaks released internal United States government that confirmed that the people in the US felt the same about Ben Eli as the people in Tunsia did. Hacker group Anonymous also supported the cause by not only defending Wikileaks, but hitting Tunsia websites, as well.

So how did the Internet get so much power? Why are governments, both democracies and other forms of governments alike, afraid of these Internet driven causes? Personally, I think that there are several factors that contribute to this fear. In democracies, the leaders, in order to stay in any sort of seat in power, need to listen to the citizens that voted them into power in the first place. I think that it is amazing that the “government for the people, by the people” is starting to circle around and bring some of the decision influences back down to the citizen level.  Also, I think the simple fact that “word of mouth” doesn’t take very long to spread any more. We can know what is happening in the world, including protests, news, causes, epidemics…in a matter of minutes.

To bring this to a local perspective, think back to the day Tropical Storm Irene hit the area. There were pictures of every corner on town, people were sharing what roads were destroyed and to avoid, and even seeking help out of their house.  I think back even further to 2007 when we had that terrible wind storm in April. Just 5 years ago, there were many fewer local people on Facebook and the same volume of sharing online didn’t happen.  After the wind passed, everyone was out in their cars surveying the damage. With Irene, you already had seen the damage as it was being caused right on Facebook.

Now, local businesses and organizations need to utilize the power of these mediums. Engage your followers. Post interesting and informative information. Support other businesses and organizations through your page. If you are posting interesting and informative information, fans or followers that find this information interesting will often repost or retweet the information, which will cause a ripple of effect, generating more followers and passing on your information to more people.

Continue to may attention to what’s happening online, no matter your career. Chances are, it does affect you, and your action may make all the difference. For your pages and posts, make them engaging and interesting. You never know the full power of how your content may take off.

(Research from wikipedia.org and motherjones.org.)

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reunion time: in person or online?

It is the end of the 2011 and high school reunions are in the air. The Rutland High School class of 2001 has made its way home this week to celebrate their ten year reunion. But in an age where social media is readily available and anyone can easily connect and essentially “stalk” almost every member of their class, what is the importance of these personal encounters?

As you may know, I have a Master’s degree in Media Studies, focusing on Online Marketing and Social Media. I am very much an advocate for the importance and usefulness of these mediums, and see them emerging and developing even more over the next decade. People who know me personally, know that I am a very social being. I love personal contact and could certainly end up on the phone with you for hours at a time, talking about everything and nothing at all once. My ten year high school reunion will come at some point in 2012, and I honestly can not wait. Yes, I have been keeping tabs on people I graduated high school with through various social medias, but nothing can replace those one on one conversations.

We all know high school is tough, mostly because people are attempting to figure out who they are, what their styles are, how to be a good friend, a good member of society, how to be the best them they can be. There are people I interact with now whose paths never crossed mine in high school for one reason or another. I am interested in how different people have grown, what their lives are like, how maybe our lives have changed and morphed in ways that we now have a million things in common and will become good friends.

Tonight, for example, I was out on the town with friends of mine. Looking around at us interacting, you would think we had all grown up together and been friends for years. Honestly, I have only been a part of this “group” of friends for a little over a year. Only one member of the group was I friends with in high school, and our relationship has certainly only grown stronger in the passing years. The remainder of the group of friends all grew up in the Rutland area, but we were not friends in high school. These new friendships did not spring up through social media “meet-ups,” although we do all use social media to communicate with each other, to plan events, and a few of us use social media in our jobs, even. This is one side of the spectrum.

The other side is maybe that witch from high school is still a witch. But her Facebook wall is most likely not going to tell me that, and I would like to give her a chance, in person, to prove she has matured and changed.

I think personal interaction can be viewed as another “medium” of media and communication. Yes, social media has emerged as an important way of receiving news or of keeping up with friends who live far away, but conversation is faster and on different topics when you have the personal communication. Even a media form like Skype, where users can video chat for free, does not replace the organic need for human touch, interaction, and engaged conversation. Similar to the way Google+ works, where you can post certain information to only specific “circles” of friends, is the way that social media versus personal communication works. There are some conversations that I want to have with only my closest friends through the act of discussion. There are some viewpoints, discussions, and stories that never need to make their way into print. You, being human, surely agree with this statement.

RHS’s class of 2001 only used Facebook to contact its members. I have to say, that it is likely the most affective way to reach most people. I say most because there are those diehards from that class (like my husband) who do not subscribe to social media and prefer only personal interaction (lumping phone calls and texts into this category). I think that this still works, because even though he is not on Facebook or Twitter, or any other social media platform, I am and several of his friends are, linking him back into the conversation.

The point I am trying to make is, perhaps social media, instead of replacing the high school reunion, is actually helping to enhance it. For those who can not make it home for their reunion, Facebook will let them know who is going to be there and let them reconnect with someone from their past through the platform. Twitter will allow live tweeting of the event, if someone chooses to do so. Both of these mediums will also encourage, and I guarantee it will happen, the immediate posting of pictures, so the classmates who are missing the event will seemingly still be apart of the buzz and be able to see what went on very easily.

Social media is helping to back up and increase the value of these interpersonal live communications. I encourage you to reconnect with someone from your past using the social media tools that are available to you, and plan a time to meet up with them in person. Nothing beats throwing back a drink or grabbing a coffee with an old friend.

 
 

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