or “Now that social networks have become politically and legally relevant, where the hell are you?”
The American Idol/Social Network Generation knows no world without the internet. Online video and other bandwidth-heavy experiences, to many of this generation, are as reliable as gravity. Be they fresh out of college or still bushwacking through the various levels of school, the people of this generation are known for rejecting traditional ways of consuming news such as print and television, and embracing newer, instantaneous ways such as websites, Twitter and now Facebook. Traditional ways of consuming information are increasingly coming up short as the definition of “news” becomes more literal every day and this generation is spearheading the change-over.
Over the past few years, social networks, once single-purpose tools for students trying to keeping in touch, have integrated themselves ever more fully into the fabric of the larger global society. After the college crowd, Facebook and other social networking sites expanded into the professional realm as a centralized tool to meet and keep in touch with professional contacts. After a more diverse cross section of people (and corporations) began to spend significant portions of their time on social networks, people began looking for social network-based outlets for information like news and politics.
The most recent, and possibly the most powerful, of these groups are the multitude of groups devoted to sharing photos from the recent Gaza conflict. Using photos of mangled and murdered children (be warned: very disturbing images), the groups are effectively presenting an unheard version of truth about a conflict that is a world away and making it hard for any user of social networking sites to ignore.
Recently, people have been using the groups and apps built into these sites as ways to even challenge and protest legal rulings. While many of these movements are largely symbolic, check out the millions of dollars possibly lost by Cinemark (to the tune of 4%+ of Sales) due to unpopular campaign donations by the CEO. With social networks taking such a large role in many aspects of society and people using social networks as a place to share their deepest concerns with the larger world, companies who resist social networks in favor of more traditional advertising need to ask themselves if their reasons for avoiding social network advertising are out of prudence, or out of fear.
Even if you fear these new locations as places to engage in marketing, in this recession, might it make sense to lay a foundation on these networks so that you have them as outlets for your message during the coming boom times? The financial and PR risk are significantly lower than other types of marketing, so what’s stopping you from reading some Chris Brogan or calling a successful social network marketing company? Ignore social networks, their communities and the marketing and messaging opportunities they offer at your peril.