Social Media is a Force for Influence – For Brands, For People

by Gregg on January 5, 2013

I’ve always been of the opinion that social media channels – for brands and individual users alike – are a force for influence. In other words, I believe that every post has the potential to influence, no matter how banal it might seem at face value. That influence creates the opportunity for change, hopefully for the better, but sometimes not.

Sounds pretty high-minded. I bring this up because I read two columns this week – one in the Chicago Tribune and another in the Chicago Sun-Times – that prove to me that there are still those who choose to barely scratch the surface when it comes to social media channels and what they mean. Instead, they attack what they don’t, or won’t, understand.

In yesterday’s Tribune, essayist Meghan Daum writes that Facebook is basically nothing more than a means for people to brag about themselves. "it’s become less a place for exchanging ideas and events and more and more an unmitigated, unapologetic opportunity for public relations. It’s a forum not for sharing ideas but for bragging," says Daum, who follows that up with pithy descriptions of how exactly people brag. (It’s priceless.) Later, she notes that posts are "advertisements for our insecurity." Isn’t that more of a comment about what we’ve become as a society than social media, which is merely a channel? Hmm.

In last Sunday’s Sun-Times, columnist Charlie Shae Galvin writes that "social media sites are supposed to help people connect with each other, but instead they are helping breed a society of dim-witted narcissists who can’t think of anything interesting to say." Tell that to the people who leveraged social media in 2011’s Arab Spring, but anyway …

This is tired, archaic thinking, stuff I read five years ago, which I guess says something about the Tribune and Sun-Times brands for reprinting it. Both columns are rife with generalizations – I’m sorry, but you don’t generalize 1 billion global Facebook users and half a billion Twitter users – but what really struck me was the lack of any solid evidence to back their points. And trust me, there’s plenty of social media statistical data available at a mouse click. Why? Social media is driven by data.

I get that columns are opinions, but to list a few random posts in both columns, taken completely out of context and for all I know may have been made by the same person … that’s like me getting cut off in traffic and declaring on this blog that all drivers are inconsiderate sots.

You know what I see in social media? A force for influence.

I see Jenni Hogan, a reporter for KIRO-TV in Seattle, using her Twitter feed and her ambition to start The KIRO 7 Mobile Tweetup with Jenni Hogan, that highlights social causes. Here’s some data for you: Her efforts have generated 75,000 items for infants and six truckloads of toys for Toys for Tots, according to this article.

I see GE’s Ecomagination Facebook page generating discussions with people globally about everything from wind turbines to recycling cellphones. The conversations are rich; scroll down and read the comments about recycling cellphones, for example.

The really interesting part is that these are but two examples – there are thousands more and they’re easy to find just by logging on.

So to Daum and Galvin, I would say your viewpoints are noted, and while they’re not 100% wrong, they are also nowhere near 100% right.

(Image credit to ChannelNomics.)

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