The Social Media Revolution
We all know that social media has turned the process of marketing on its head. The customer has more power than ever to initiate, drive, and change the entire branding process. However, social media is now impacting the very social frameworks of society, and is giving people the power to start impacting and shaping political process and governments. Traditionally, the political party who has the most media support tends to win elections. There is a correlation between the US presidential candidate who raises the most money for their election campaigns and the one who gets elected.
Is social media able to change this reality and take the power back to the people?
There are a number of examples of how governments have leveraged social media to engage with constituencies, in addition to their other communications strategies. Although, not allowed to participate in the official debates, Canadian Green Party Candidate and Leader, Elizabeth May, used social media to connect with her constituents. Using Twitter she answered the same questions asked to the other Party Leaders in real time during the debates, in a sense participating in the national debates. The effective use of Social Media gave Elizabeth May a platform to challenge our current political system and bring change to Canada’s political landscape. Social media is allowing people to become involved in the political process in a manner never before witnessed.
We are now witnessing many elections occurring around the world, and are starting to see how social media in other countries is impacting election results. My girlfriend is from Mexico and now living in Canada; however, we have been paying close attention to the Mexican presidential elections.
In Mexico, the PRI party, who is trying to regain power in the country, has appeared to all but bought and paid for the media coverage of the elections. It is no secret the political allegiance of Mexico’s media corporations. However, the Mexican people are taking to other channels like social media to start to take the control back from the biased media; giving people more accurate information. The media in Mexico is trying everything in its power to influence the outcome of the election by selectively reporting or twisting the information released to the public. Yet using social media, the Mexican population is able to build support and arrange protests, to change the balance of power and set the record straight.
For example, after a public speech at a Mexican university, the media had reported that the crowd (who managed to boo the politician from the stage and into hiding in the bathroom) was been paid off by another political party. Taking offense to the inaccurate reporting, the students have taken to Social Media to arrange a massive protest of over 15,000 students to challenge the media’s inaccurate reporting, and take a stand for accurate reporting of the elections. The students have leveraged Facebook, and Twitter, to create a massive multinational community, Yo Soy 132, to demand that the coverage of the election be clear and transparent allowing for a conscious and informed vote. Support for Yo Soy 132 seemingly popped up over night and in many countries around the world thanks to the power of Social Media.
Social Media can also be the potential downfall of political candidates, as the same Mexican presidential hopeful for the PRI found out. After a disastrous interview at a book signing, a Twitter firestorm quickly ensued, bringing harsh criticisms and amplifying the embarrassment of the candidate. To further add fuel to an already immense fire, the candidate’s daughter decided to respond on behalf of her father. In a single tweet, his daughter managed to detract the attention from her father’s interview, and to offend most of the country. The response from the population of Mexico was severe and immediate. Over the next several days and weeks, the firestorm created from a single tweet continued to gain strength, and put into serious jeopardy the outcome of the candidate’s election.
The elections in Mexico are becoming very interesting. We are starting to witness Social Media becoming more powerful against mainstream media, and are in fact providing the basis for the true democratic process to take place.
Mainstream media is a business, and as such it has become biased by political motivations, and advertising budgets. Therefore the legitimacy of reports must be viewed critically, knowing that there is a certain bias to the reporting. Social media cannot be controlled or manipulated, perhaps this is why some countries fear, and are impeding the spread of Social Media into their countries. Social Media allows each person to freely, and without censorship, post their views. They can in fact create a grassroots movement which challenges the current political institution.
With Social Media marketing it is important to know that your brand, and your brand message, is to a large extent in the hands of the many. Branding has now become a democratic process where your company’s image will be shaped by the actions of the company, rather than controlling the mass media messaging. Social Media is able to give people a platform to voice their opinion to the many, and presents an even playing field for people, and companies, to reshape/build brands. Companies (and politicians) must embrace a new world of accountability.
To the Students of ‘Yo Soy 132’: Viva Mexico. Viva la Revolución. Viva la Democracia!