The Far-reaching Effects of Social Media

The following post is not intended to endorse or support the actions or in-actions of those whom it discusses.

If you ever had any doubts of the power of social media, lay them to rest.

Recent events triggered various social media firestorms which lead to raised conventional media awareness. News agencies, wise to the utility of Twitter and Facebook as an indicator of “the people’s voice,” further fomented discussion by continued coverage and sometimes baiting. This, in turn, resulted in a call for action and authorities becoming more involved than they might have otherwise.

hello!According to the New York Times, #Ferguson is what thrust the Ferguson, MO shooting incident into the national limelight.

It has spurred a new iteration of discussion with the hashtag #iftheygunmedown, which had hundreds of participants posting dual photos of themselves on twitter. One, in which the participants were dressed in clothing and posing in ways that might indicate they were a gang member, and another which indicated they were upstanding, law abiding, and community contributing citizens. All this posing the question, which photo would the media use “#iftheygunmedown”?

Their point to conventional media outlets? One hopes their point was that they now understand the media’s attempts to manipulate the populace and whip them into a frenzied race-based flame war. Because controversy sells. But it’s possible that such techniques on the part of money-hungry news agencies have only confirmed to blacks that white bias exists on a large scale.

A month later, we are still seeing that the incident is fresh on people’s minds as social media and conventional media feed off each other. Protesters attempted a shutdown  of I-70 and Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to launch an investigation. One has to wonder if such efforts would have been expended if news social media discussion of the incident had faded away.

The recent rash of NFL controversies have sparked social media outcry, as well.

As news of Adrian Peterson’s suspension for alleged child abuse broke, the world was still reacting to the interview Reggie Bush gave for WFAN’s Boomer and Carton Show. Social media users have had plenty to say about Reggie’s less than prudent words. (#ReggieBush)

The indefinite suspension of player Ray Rice from the NFL only came about after public pressure via social media was brought to bear on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The populace is enraged at the thought that the NFL hoped to brush the incident under the rug. Paul George, who tweeted a comment in support of Ray Rice, felt an immediate social media backlash that had him scrambling to apologize.

All of these incidents are cautionary tales for both businesses (of which the NFL is one) and individuals alike.

If business practices are anything but above board, one would do well to view social media with a wary eye.

Before social media came along, businesses and high profile individuals could afford to anger people to a degree. They could count on the powerless isolation of consumers. But social media allows people to find, interact, and discuss with strangers, like-minded and not. All of a sudden, consumers aren’t so isolated and the people’s voice has more economic and political clout than it ever had before.

Many businesses and bureaucratic powers that be are still trying to play catch up. Some might be mystified at the immense pressure that can be brought to bear via the seemingly innocuous social media platforms.

Will social media change how businesses do business?

If the Goodell case is any indicator, we the people want transparency. It upsets consumers to realize that business owners (or government officials) might be looking at preserving their own interests over preserving their integrity.

To rehash an over-used parallel to ancient Rome, we can say that modern social media has shrunken the nation to such a degree that the star movers and shakers of this world can rise and fall as easily as the politicians of ancient Rome rose and fell by the voice of the mob.

Nevertheless, there is no way to guarantee your business will never experience a stock-shaking scandal. At that point, all you can do is act with integrity and hope that you have built up enough of a relationship with the public that they are willing to believe any apologies made or mistakes owned.

Look for Part II of this article next month: The Social Media Takeaway on Recent Events

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