I wonder what the babies born in 2012 will think about the world before social media. As I shudder thinking of the days when students wrote their theses without the benefit of online databases of scholarly articles, they will probably shudder at the days when the best way of making Friday night plans with friends was calling them on the phone.
Yesterday I had a social-media-inspired moment of reflection at how easy it is to spread ideas nowadays. A few months ago I was finally able to watch Miss Representation, a documentary about negative representations of women in the media and how this affects young girls. Thanks to social media, I’ve been able to keep up with the organization’s efforts to combat these negative representations. Yesterday, the organization organized a Twitter party about negative representations of women in reality shows that people all over the world could follow with the hashtag #WhyKardashians.
Soon, the topic became a worldwide trend. But as I read the tweets in the stream, I began to wonder if social media’s ability to spread an idea like wildfire was also its weakness. Clearly, not all the tweets in the stream were related to the Miss Representation Twitter party. People were using the hashtag to praise the Kardashians for their looks, to personally attack the Kardashians, and of course, to wonder why the Kardashians are famous. (Could even Einstein figure out the answer to that question?) Scattered between these unrelated tweets was the serious conversation about reality television that Miss Representation had intended.
Twenty years ago, Miss Representation would have needed to organize an event at a physical venue to hold this conversation. The conversation would have been accessible to much fewer people, but the conversation would have remained on track. Social media is a tradeoff between the amount of people you can include in the conversation and the ability to control the conversation. But when it comes to talking about brands, I think this lack of ability to control the conversation is exactly what attracts consumers to social media. Instead of scaring brands off social media, this should motivate brands to prioritize customer satisfaction so that the overwhelming majority of the conversation is positive.
As for Miss Representation’s Twitter party, the organization used their Twitter page, @RepresentPledge, to retweet the comments relevant to the conversation. I thought that was a great way to make sure everyone interested in the conversation was able to follow it without getting lost in the unrelated tweets.What are your thoughts on the way ideas can catch on so quickly over social media? How do you keep up with Twitter?