Social media gives everyone a voice … but so what?
The driving ethos of social media is ‘every individual has a voice, and can share it with the world’– in effect it’s taking the ‘one-to-one’ relationship up a notch to a ‘one-to-one-to-many’ dynamic where an individual has ‘networked personal contact’, and the value of an exchange or conversation is worth potentially more than just the interaction of two parties, but a catalyst between two networks which themselves are part of the larger interconnected community.
Given that we’re becoming familiar with the rudiments of what social media is and does in a communications sense, what are the strategic ramifications of social media on business and the wider community? Will it have the impact that the internet had when it arrived as we stepped into the 21st century? Will it throw up new game changing business models? Or is it a bubble that will deflate and settle into the armoury of users’ communications toolboxes?
These are some key aspects which I think are significant;
1. Power of ‘advocacy’ – galvanizing support from others around an issue or an idea has resulted in newsworthy events over the past 12 months. Social media’s impact on the changing of regime’s within the ‘Arab Spring’ brought together citizens in those countries, and drew the support from the around the world as people protested against the regimes deemed as undemocratic. The moral support and sharing of eye witness reports through social channels reached broadcast media and informed the world of the developments within those countries. On a different level support for an idea, a discussion, or an event can result in many people coming together and sharing quality insight – you just have to look at the number of participants involved in Social Media Week around the globe to the see power of social media in engaging so many professionals, who support, promote, and contribute to the seminars and events.
Generating advocacy, where recommendation based on experience, loyalty, peer acceptance, and support will increasingly be one of the key business drivers and indicators of success. The challenge for those fortunate to receive advocacy from others, will be to turn this into a positive and constructive outcome.
2. Transparency & accountability – although web provided the platform for people to publicly share their views about products, services, and customer experiences, social media has introduced two key components that urge a provider to give responsible, open responses. Firstly, the connectedness of a person commenting on an issue has meant that their voice is not as isolated as it was once before, and is shared with their network of contacts. Combined with the second important aspect – immediacy of connectivity – means that a real-time conversation can begin, and one person can very quickly be supported by a whole body of connected individuals voicing their own thoughts. And if the conversation engages enough individuals, the powerful wave of support generated can bring significant pressure to bear and effect change.
A recent example of a community of supporters holding a major corporation to account, involved followers of a micro brewery eliciting a climb down and apology from drinks giant Diageo. It was at an industry awards ceremony when the sponsor Diageo attempted to interfere with the final judgement and deny the winners BrewDog, an up and coming young Scottish craft beer brewery, from receiving their award . This was discovered at the awards evening, and BrewDog shared this with its followers on Twitter using the hashtag #AndTheWinnerIsNot. Within 24 hours the story was trending globally, and alerted the national media who added to the intense coverage which eventually led Diageo to making a public admission to their behaviour and apologise to BrewDog.
Given that now many different audiences are interconnected through their contact network and social media channels, any business or organisation needs to adopt a transparent agenda that can withstand scrutiny from an ever watchful world and its vocal citizens. A willingness to proactively embrace an open, accountable business approach will win advocacy and support from loyal supporters and customers, and retain credibility in the eyes of critical observers. Failure to do so will ultimately erode an organisation’s integrity and value.