Throughout 2011, Make Me Social will publish Socially Made, a review of social media’s continued evolution in both influence and commentary.
The first month of 2011 offered a dichotomy of stories related to what “Socially Made” will be about in the future: The ways social media has become part of the mainstream.
There were stories ranging from commentary issued by Congressmen and women in real time during the President’s State of the Union address to the Twitter-basting of the Chicago Bears’ quarterback. However, if we were to define how social media was used this month in a word, it would be research, specifically manifesting itself in two ways during two events:
The Tragedy in Tucson
Tucson, Arizona was the epicenter for a tragic event, and in an effort to gain as much information as possible as to the timeline and progression that led to this dramatic and unwarranted culmination, investigators, the media and the public as a whole took to social media to research the gunman’s thoughts (we at Make Me Social refuse to use his name as a tribute to the victims and in our personal effort to prevent any increase in his SEO. We have instead linked to this page). The research resulted in a number of finds – including videos on YouTube and chats during online games – that cited incendiary language that was interpreted as everything from “just venting” to “a warning sign.”
The evidence of social media use by this individual led to discussions on the tone of rhetoric used on social media sites, as well as the rebirth of conversations on the types of people that can be found using these channels. These same conversations existed with the advent of cyber-bullying and the ongoing issue of privacy policies on social media sites. The truth is that defining a medium (and those that use that medium) by the lowest common denominator is hardly a fair representation (similar to claiming all business outsourcing is bad simply because some companies lay off their employees and outsource work to other countries).
Crazy typically finds an outlet – whether it is message boards or manifestos – and if social media can be an alternative to physical harm and/or used as a tool in which to learn about their reasons, then it deserves a chip in the game. Additionally, what we are finding is that social media is playing its part on the other end of this spectrum by helping to identify crimes and criminals. For example, an estimated 700 police departments across the country have their own Facebook pages to use as a research tool to help connect with their communities to keep them safe.
The revolution in Egypt has resulted in conflict and violence throughout Cairo in an effort by the people to have their voices heard in governmental reform. Remarkably, the world has been able to receive new information on the day-to-day activities (despite the shutdown of most telecommunication systems by the Egyptian government) due to the resourcefulness of the public to find ways to connect to social media.
One person that has a unique perspective on this specific topic is David Faris, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Roosevelt University, who has researched and written about the effects of social media on the authoritarian rule in Egypt. He has summarized it this way:
“The critical role of social media right now is reaching global audiences with video, audio and first-hand accounts of the unrest. Intrepid Egyptians on the ground have managed to find internet connections here and there to upload videos, send Tweets, and post their thoughts to blogs. The most important change from the past is that social media (along of course with brave reporters from Al-Jazeera and other venues) make it impossible for the regime to hide what’s going on, from Egyptians but most of all from the world.”
We will be going into more detail on this topic in a future post, but the broader point is that individuals like Professor Faris, as well as his colleagues and the media, are utilizing social media platforms as a research tool to get first-hand accounts of these events. While it goes without saying that receiving an unfiltered flow of information mandates a trusted source, activism of this sort is tailor-made for the benefits social media offers.
Additionally, Make Me Social heavily encourages the use of social media as a mechanism for driving “call to action” – type activism of any size, as long as the messages shared are steeped in non-violent language. There is a responsibility that users of social media have to undertake or else risk being labeled with a stigma that will reduce credibility and effectiveness of the medium.
Greg Morgan is Communications and Content Director for Make Me Social, a social media agency that develops customized social media strategies for businesses. With experience in industries ranging from sports to state government, Greg focuses in crafting messages for all types of clients in an effort to perfect what he calls “versatile communications.” Born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, he remains a loyal UConn Husky fan, despite now residing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.