The Power of Social Media

January 20, 2016

Social Media is an easily accessible tool providing mass communication between anyone with an internet connection. Over the past decade, we’ve seen it evolve into something spectacular; thanks to the power of social media every single one of us has a voice and the opportunity to connect with others. Most recently, social media has developed into a device that can be used to demean others for social dominance and personal gain.

1. Social Media Gives People a Voice

Social media has advanced rapidly into a mass communication device that has the ability to inspire, encourage, and provide the sharing of thoughts, ideas, and information.

The carefree and anonymous nature of social media allows us to liberally express our opinions without embarrassment and humiliation. Never before has the everyday person been able to speak up about a cause they believe in and create a global following enriching the cause enabling them, with the help of their online community, to make a different. Social media has seen the ordinary person rise to celebrate status simply by expressing their true passion points on Social Media. For example Foodcraft Espresso & Bakery’s popularity skyrocketed overnight after just one Instagram post of their now famous, TellaBall Shake.   

As invigorating as this new means of expression is, Social Media is both a gift and a curse; the anonymity of social media means that others are free to harass and confront others without being personally identified.  Cyber bulling is notorious across all social media platforms and sadly is the cause for many cases of depression primarily amongst teenagers. Here, we need to provide comfort that we can prevent cyber bullying by practising caution, being respectful, and by avoiding those who are looking for trouble. Just like the real world, there are bullies that live within the social media space. Avoid them where possible and if you are faced with a bully at any stage, report them to the social media network to prevent them from causing further harm.

Social media platforms also allow us to collaborate and learn from others; this may be anything from discovering new home DIY ideas, to being inspired to try out a unique fashion style – All thanks to the ‘voices’ of strangers across the globe. Whether it’s photographers sharing their photos or everyday mums sharing their healthy recipes on Instagram, Social Media gives everyone an anyone a voice. Embrace it and start expressing your passion with the world.

2. Social Media Unites Communities 

As well as allowing us to openly express ourselves, social media has the power to change lives in uniting people from opposite ends of the world.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram just to name a few, have assisted in the reconnection of distant relatives, facilitated in the maintaining of long-distance friendships, and have ignited life-long love connections. They have even united complete strangers who share common interests or hobbies to create special bonds of iron strength.

Social Media also removes geographical and societal bounds and enables communities from around the world to connect and come together for a shared goal. This particular opportunity has seen the rise of many powerful campaigns whereby the everyday person can have global influence; In 2012, not-for-profit organisation Invisible Children released a video on YouTube describing the inhuman acts of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their leader Joseph Kony, based in central Africa. The aim of the video was to raise awareness and money to put an end to the LRA’s tyrannical reign. In reaching out to the public, 3.5 million people donated to Invisible Children and pledged their support for the arrest of Kony and the LRA.

Following the incident of Mr. Said who died wrongfully at the hands of policemen in 2010, an anonymous activist group created a Facebook Page to declare their outrage about government abuses and corruption that frequently occurred in Egypt. In a country where the freedom of speech, and other basic human rights were limited, the page allowed for Egyptians to bond over their mutual disgust and even spread awareness about what really goes on behind closed doors. Read about it here.

3. Social Media Powers in Politics

In recent years, politicians and Presidential candidates have gained international notoriety through the use of social media.  Platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter have provided new ways to stimulate citizen engagement in political life, whether elections and political campaigns are a common focus. Social Media however, has also been abused as a scheming tool to exercise exploitative control or influence over another person or situation.

Known to some as a master manipulator and pot-stirrer, there is no doubt Donald Trump knows how to rule the social media kingdom. He ensures he has a presence on a variety of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and niche channels such as Vine and Periscope. In contrast to many political figures around the world who seek the approval of many social media posts, Trump takes no prisoners as he attacks, belittles, and makes false claims about opposing political candidates and controversial subject matter.

“Donald Trump would not be where he is today without the amplification of social media”, says Mindy Finn, previous employee for Ex-President George W. Bush. Trump understands that by posting something shocking, he is able to generate enough hype to dominate news feeds across a plethora of social media platforms.

Although some would disagree with Donald Trump’s unethical, unorthodox, or just plain ruthless methods of strategy, there is no denying that whatever he’s doing, works. Since 2011, Trump has seen an increase in Twitter fans from 300,000 to over an incredible 5,750,000 followers today.

Humour and scandal creation are the key facets to the billionaire’s digital marketing campaign. His posts have generated tens of thousands of ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘retweets’, countless news mentions, and now he’s riding high in current Presidential polls. However, despite an exponential growth in followers, is it worth it? To ridicule others for selfish gain? Not everyone likes a merciless cry for attention. It is important to consider the negative consequences for this kind of strategy; powerful hate groups and the like, may attempt to target Donald Trump and pin others against him.

On the other hand, Australian politicians Malcolm Turnbull and Mike Baird have seen great success through their social media profiles which have allowed the two leaders to communicate with their society on a more personal level. They share daily anecdotes and beliefs that give the two a more ‘humanised’ element, allowing the public to understand their true values and their passion for the country they call home.

4. Social Media Aids in Global Crisis

Social media fundamentally connects and cultivates communities. This was especially prevalent during the Paris Siege in November 2015. The city of Paris was under a terrorist attack whereby over three iconic locations were under threat including the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, the Bataclan Concert Theatre, and mass shootings at cafés and restaurants.

Facebook saw many friends and family checking in with their loves ones in Paris to make sure they were ok. The Facebook “Safety Check” feature was launched whereby Facebook users in Paris could tick “I am safe” and this would then send a notification to all their friends on the social network to let them know that they were in face, unharmed.

The feature was warmly welcomed by communities around the world and put many families at ease. Facebook did however, receive some backlash after the event as they did not release the Safety Check features for Beirut who were also experiencing a terrorist attack just before the Paris siege. Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, announced shortly after that they are still constantly improving their Safety Check feature and hope to implement this in regards to all natural and man made disasters alike.

The power of Social Media has provided countless opportunities for individual growth, team efforts, and worldwide initiatives. It has brought us so much more than Kim Kardashian updates and trivial viral disputes about whether a dress is black and blue, or white and gold…

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About the author 

Jonathon Tanner

Jonathon Tanner is the Co-CEO of Social Media College, Australia's leading educator and trainer for social media.

He co-authored the Diploma of Social Media Marketing, the world's first and only Australian Government recognised course in social media marketing, delivered by 25 leading colleges and TAFEs across Australia, and articulating into several Bachelor programs at Australian Universities.

His deep expertise in social media spans content marketing, social media strategy, 15 different social media networks, paid social advertising, personal branding, email marketing, and social media conversion.

Jonathon has also co-founded several other businesses, as well as spending 12 years as a management consultant specialising in mergers & acquisitions for private equity firms, growth strategy, and operational improvement.

Jonathon holds a combined Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Sydney.

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