People as Media – The real power behind Social Media

Posted on 21st Jun 2012 by Ashok Lalla in Blog

Good news. Bad news. It spreads easily.

Being good. Doing good. Raising a voice for good bad. We see it all around us.

Brand launches. Offers. Reviews. Events. We are surrounded by them.

Indeed, we are swamped. By options. By advertising. By messages from people we know. And those we don’t.

Six degrees of separation? Sometimes it seems, more like one click of separation. Or rather one click to connect. We can connect with anything, anyone… anywhere, anytime. 24x7x365 is not about Customer Service anymore, but about our lives. Geography is history. Time zones are immaterial. W W W has gone from meaning merely the World Wide Web to becoming Whoever Wherever Whenever , and Whatever.

The water cooler is no longer something in one corner of the office around which a bunch of colleagues gather. But has become a Status update that can reach virtually anyone, anywhere. In the blink of an eye, or rather, a click on Update/Send.

Brands have awoken to this new reality. To the power of technology. To the spread of devices.

To the growth and development of the Internet. To the birth and explosion of social media. And have rapidly adopted it. Websites are passé. Social media is the new digital home of many brands.

Not surprising since that’s where the people are, and the action has shifted. Almost 1 in 7 persons on this planet is on Facebook. The ‘Republic’ of Facebook would be the 3rd most populous country on the planet after China and India. Twitter user numbers crossed 100 million a while back. Youtube has more new content uploaded every week than the leading American TV networks produced in decades.

These numbers make brands drool. And spur them to mount aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns centred around Social Media. Aimed at aggregating large numbers of ‘fans’. And then talking to them, interacting with them, influencing them.

They create elaborate strategies around Social Media Marketing. Many work, some don’t. The ones that work make marketers do more and more of the same. The ones that don’t usually get marketers to increase investments in the short term, because the ‘others’ seem to being seeing success.

Large campaigns. Backed by large budgets. And an almost rabid focus to talk to consumers. Engage them. Get them to Like the brand, and to share it with their friends. Works to a point.

But really, this approach misses the bigger point.

That Social Media marketing is not about Marketing. Or even about the media (read: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.) But it’s about being Social.

Social in a manner that that enables the audience to talk to one another. With the brand playing benign host. And providing the stimulus, the means, sometimes the incentive for its audience to stay. At its party. And to interact with their friends. To tell others what’s happening. To invite them over. To make new friends.

This Social manner can help unlock the ultimate influencer for brands. The power of its audience. The power of People as Media.

Yes, it’s no longer the newspapers and television channels and websites that provide the best returns for a brand. They might provide reach, and an opportunity to see or interact.

But what they miss is the power of ‘People like me’. The ripples of influence that come from the people carrying a message, instead of the channel carrying it. These ripples spread and create waves. That get powerful as they overlap and spread further and farther.

Look back at any of the key events of the last few years, and you will see that the difference between success and failure wasn’t just an idea, a campaign, a cause. But how the idea got picked up. And how much it touched people to make their own. To spread as their own. To their own. And likewise, further. Think Barack Obama’s last Presidential campaign. Or the BP oil spill of a couple of years back. The Egyptian Revolution. Or any brand campaign that touched you.

Why just a few years back, look back over 80 years. To the Civil Disobedience movement in India. Started by Mahatma Gandhi, fondly called the Father of the Nation by Indians. His was an idea wrapped in strong conviction. That spread across the length and breadth of India. Through cities, towns and villages. From person to person. Through families, friends, communities. Till its reverberation brought down the mighty British empire. And brought India its independence.

The power of People as Media at work. Long before we knew media as we know it now. Long before technology enabled the interconnectedness amongst people. Long before Social media platforms were born. Long before one could Like something and Share it.

Today, with the tools and the technology, and Social Media, making People your Media is that much easier. Or that much harder. Depending on what you see as Media. And what you think of Social.

But one thing is certain. The difference between a campaign that’s noticed and one that creates real brand love will be more than the idea, the creative, and the cause. The difference will be People as media that will give the campaign wings like no other media can.

And an impact unlike other media can ever do.

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