John is a copywriter here at Cloud AdAgents, and a keen observer of social media.
By now you’ve probably seen at least one reference to Kony 2012 pop up on your Facebook Wall, RSS feed or, at this point, even your daily paper. Reports indicate it’s the most viral video of all time, racking up over 100 million views within six days of being posted. Regardless of the facts, we can’t deny the phenomenon that is a 30-minute video raising millions of dollars for a cause of which, prior to viewing, most people had never heard.
Imagine if Facebook or Twitter were around in the 1930s. Could a video like this and the ensuing outrage have stopped Hitler?
That may be seem outrageous, but it’s clear to us that social media has great potential for good.
Kony is a madman no doubt, but think about the possibilities when this kind of agit-prop viral lobbying is directed at guys swindling, deceiving or simply pissing off the inhabitants of social networks. Guys who can actually be arrested or, at least, exposed. We’ve seen what happened in Middle East, starting with the Green Revolution in Iran. Technology and social media empowered individuals to spur revolution and terrified governments to incite horrific crackdowns. People began to realize that with social media they have a loud and far-reaching voice. (It remains to be seen if that voice can actually result in lasting change, but we remain hopeful.)
It’s not just criminals and despots who should be concerned. Corporate ambitions have fallen victim to social media blow back time and time again. Just recently, a McDonald’s radio ad claimed that sampling a new Chicken McSomething was “less risky” than petting a pit bull. Cue the Facebook indignation and YouTube postings enshrining the spot’s failure faster than McDonald’s could get it off the air.
True, social media will also be used to fool, or at least manipulate, the gullible. Anyone hoping to accomplish either would do well to note how Kony 2012 was meticulously crafted to go viral.
As regular people become architects of social media campaigns the likes of which most marketers can only dream, we’re all going to have to get a whole lot more honest, because it will no longer be possible for anyone to hide.