If you are the owner of a social network, a social website, a social app or any other socially enabled communication platform on the web, then you deserve to sit back, relax and have a cigar because you are part of the (hype) machine and that machine is in full swing!
The last month has been amazing in terms of telling a story of the influence of social media. Three singular, unrelated events unfurled to tell a story of the scope of social media and the virtual hype machine that it feeds, and you are insane if you’re not paying attention. If you’re a brand marketer, there are some interesting concepts to take away as well.
First we witnessed the Susan G Komen/Planned Parenthood social media fiasco and the Stop SOPA campaign, both of which were significant watershed moments in terms of using the web and social media to influence real world activity. Though not globally on par with the Arab Spring from last year, both of these were examples of a viral torrent of support or condemnation for their respective movements. In both situations, a movement began in social media that caused the reversal of political-hot-button issues and the people’s voice was heard. Neither situation would have occurred without the popularity of social media, at the very least neither would have been reversed in such a short time.
The second event I will call out is this past week’s passing of Whitney Houston the night before the Grammy Awards. She was a huge influence in music, and one of the biggest, most definable voices ever recorded, and social media was immediately ablaze with the discussion of the sad event. The Grammy Awards followed up quickly, even changing some of their production to fit in the necessary tributes. The news of Whitney Houston’s death went worldwide in seconds, and everyone was commenting on it from all sides of the globe.
The third event is one that’s pending, and hasn’t even taken place yet. It’s the IPO for Facebook. Facebook’s impending celebration has the hearts of the valley all a flutter with the scent of money. It smells like 1999 again, with secretaries and administrative assistants alike projected to be millionaires, and hundreds of people likely preparing to put down deposits on new homes in San Francisco. Facebook is forecasted to be the largest tech IPO in history, and the ad business seems in line with this as they have selected Facebook as a preferred partner for ad dollars, surpassing Google in a recent industry survey. If Facebook is indeed as big as it proclaims it will be, then social will have overtaken search as the premier darling of the data-driven Internet ad business.
On the surface these three events are only associated by one thing; the fact that they center around social media. That in itself is all you need. Social media is the modern hype machine, but unlike the days of Public Enemy, in this case you probably should believe the hype. The learning that I see here is that social media, and specifically the advent of Facebook and Twitter, is causing a reversal in the fragmentation of media. For years we’ve discussed the fragmentation of the media landscape, and how consumers are more difficult to reach with an effective frequency because of the way they spend their day. What these moments are telling me is that when there’s a topic of interest to a large group of people, and when the hype machine is in full force, fragmentation can be reversed and a singular point of view can actually be established in a small number of places. All of these situations drove people to social media, and social media became the hub for all of this activity. The fragmentation only takes place before users flock to social media. Social is the new hub.
Even in the case of the death of Whitney Houston, USA Today was running news stories on its iPad and iPhone apps that were nothing more than a collection of tweets from famous celebrities. Their version of a news story was the collection of celebrity tweets? That proves, if nothing else, that the journalists for USA Today were going to Twitter for their breaking news.
Fragmentation may be alive in terms of initial broadcast, but the machine is alive and well, and it is not going anywhere. The machine is working, and the masses can be culled together for a single action, if you have a message that resonates with them. The Superbowl showed that advertising could be used in this way, if you have the money to spend to reach enough of the audience at least once. The lesson for a marketer is that if you are strategic, and you have enough money, you can indeed influence a large group of people at once. You can put the hype machine to work for you.
Don’t you agree? Who do you see that’s doing a good job of this?