Most of us, whether casual observers or active users are aware of the impact and influence of the social web. If we look at the numbers- 955 million active Facebook members, 500 million Twitter accounts, 100 million Instagram users, etc.- it’s clear to see that people are signing-up and signing-on to social media. All of this is fairly impressive, especially when you consider Facebook, arguably one of the most prominent leaders in social networking, wasn’t even launched until 2004. The social web has certainly come along way in recent years. But the influence of the social web isn’t measure strictly in numbers; it’s also the ways in which we engage with these technologies.
Social media platforms have given individuals the opportunity to share and discuss issues on a grander scale. People like you and I now have the opportunity to broadcast our thoughts, ideas, and opinions to networks that extend beyond family, friends, co-workers and colleagues, potentially even reaching a global audience, all in an accessible low-cost manner. This pervasiveness is apparent to many users, most of all marketing, advertising, and public relations professionals who are forever trying to find new and effective ways to communicate with their audience. With these social networking technologies, public relations professionals and the organizations they represent are engaging with their audiences across various platforms with the aim of building and strengthening their relationships, while also (ideally) enhancing their corporate brand and reputation.
However, with usage increases comes the addition of more voices, opinions, pitches, and ideas, and we run the risk of experiencing social media fatigue. This can be problematic from the perspective of both social media producers and consumers because suddenly the outlets that once allowed us to speak freely become muddled. But as with most things, there is a solution: patience, commitment, and creativity, which is why I’d like to turn your attention to Caine’s Arcade (video below).
The original premise of Nirvan Mullick’s project was simple: help make Caine’s day. Tapping into the social web, Mullick attracted the attention of users worldwide and has transformed the original project into something greater with the development of the Caine’s Arcade scholarship fund and the Imagination Foundation. There are many things that we can take away from this project but here are a few that stood out:
1) Know your audience. Mullick’s idea for a flash mob was a quirky one and it tapped into the right audience when the event was shared on the Hidden Los Angeles Facebook page and later on Reddit. Not every platform is the right one, so knowing your audience and where they frequent is important.
2) People are willing to engage with you if you engage with them. Simple enough, right? The problem is that there are still organizations that fail to understand this point, seeking social media programs for the sole purpose of broadcasting their message and pitching their product without investing the time it takes to engage with their audiences. Although he approaches this topic from a marketing perspective, what David Alleyne-Martin points out in his blog posting remains true even from a public relations standpoint: you need to focus on the conversations and not the platforms. The social web is an incredible tool but we need to remember the social aspect of it- the conversations, discussions, and relationships. Part of Nirvan Mullick and Caine Monroy’s success lay in the fact that they were able to maintain this focus on engaging with their audiences.
Caine’s arcade is an interesting example that demonstrates the potential of the social web and its ability to engage with a wide audience, compelling them to support the cause. This project does a lot of things right when it comes to social media and communications and it also addresses several concepts that I hope to further explore through this blog. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and feedback.