Two guys walk into a coffee shop, get their drinks, sit down and start chatting.
“Social media is the biggest waste of time,” said the first person.
“No it’s not. It’s one of the greatest inventions of our time,” said the second person.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I will admit that I am a fan of Facebook and I use Twitter on occasion. I love Facebook for a variety of reasons: I’ve been able to re-connect with long-lost friends, it allows me to share thoughts and ideas and get discussions going, and it enables me to learn from those around me. But the key, as blogger Om Malik suggests, is “the message — the act of sharing — is the real product.”
The beauty of social media is simply that – the act of sharing a message. Yet in the tech sector, we tend to get a little too excited about new technologies and sometimes I think we’re simply lemmings jumping off of a cliff by blindly following the hottest trends. That message was clear at the recent Demo show where “just about everywhere you look these days, Twitter and Facebook are the most popular kids in the room.”
But I’m not here to debate the merits or praise the rise of social media. I’m here to say that, as a history buff, I find it fascinating that the social media wave has become a crucial part of the recent upheaval in the Middle East. The people who suffer under the repressive regimes in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt have been controlled and repressed over the years by hard-line governments. Yet the ability of the masses to share the message of freedom with the world did not go unnoticed by those of us outside of those countries. And we have social media, at least in part, to thank. As noted in Mashable:
“The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University cited Facebook and Twitter as playing key roles in spreading dissent-and up-to-the-minute news-in Tunisia, leading to the removal of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who gained control of the country in a 1987 coup d’etat.”
So what can the tech sector learn from this? It’s very important to work closely with your customers, address their needs and make sure that you follow through on your promises. Because if you don’t, unhappy customers have the power to make your life miserable, just like the revolutionaries in the countries mentioned above have for their leaders.
Many PR folks are concerned about the rise of social media and the fall of traditional methods to engage with members of the press. My advice to those people, the social media channel is much more powerful than you might have imagined. Don’t pretend that it can’t come up an get you. It can.