If your company disregards social media as a consumer trend or solely personal tool, you’re grossly underestimating its power. Social media is the first true collective voice of our world, making the exchange of information faster than previously imaginable and creating a global social awareness like never before. Just consider the transformation of information exchange in the past twenty years.
Now, in real-time, we digest news in a variety of forms, from a variety of sources: official media outlets, news sources, politicians, philosophers, friends, family, and subject matter experts. But, most importantly, we can contribute our own two cents. This change represents something monumental.
Before television or the Internet, we received our news through newspapers and magazines — a singular source of information without a platform for debate. The rise of the Internet in the 1980’s and 90’s facilitated access to more opinions and sources, but the information still generally spread from the top down to the masses. The creation of the “blogosphere” became an outlet for bottom-up information, where individuals published their personal beliefs and thoughts without affiliation to an organization or media outlet. But it really wasn’t until the birth of social media, particularly Facebook, in the mid-90’s that the transfer of information was turned on its head.
Today’s social media represents true democracy, “in its purest or most ideal form … in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.” We are closer to this ideal than ever before, and its implications are far more than political. This new voice reaches every corner of the globe, and now even the most disenfranchised can be heard. Isn’t that the way it should be?
The United Nations sponsored Social Good Summit brings together some of today’s greatest thinkers to dialogue on social change movements and leveraging the power of social media for the good of our world.
Here are some highlights from the 2011 summit, accessed through the UN’s YouTube channel:
Aaron Sherinian, UN VP of Communications and Public Relations
“Today with the devolution of power from hierarchy to citizens, the people calling the shots in countries aren’t necessarily the people in the $3000 suits. (Social media allows us to) get the pulse of the people. … It’s not good enough to just issue a press release anymore.”
Richard Gere, actor, social activist and philanthropist
“We’re not alone. … (Mankind is) deeply connected to everything. … (Social media is) a tool to serve the heart.”
Monique Coleman, actress, entrepreneur and philanthropist
“Through these social media sites our ability to connect one person to the next person to the next person and create social change and absolute global impact is incredible. ”
Social media continually evolves into a medium for social change. Its impact on politics and humanitarian efforts are evident. On the political front, many analysts attribute American President Barack Obama’s victory to his social engagement of youth voters; Twitter is becoming a reliable predictor in the GOP primaries. Social movements have organized online, including the Occupy Wall Street protests and sites like Kickstarter.com, which raise much-needed funds for social good projects. And the real-time, word-of-mouth capabilities made communicating news and needs in natural disasters, including the 2011 earthquakes in Japan and Haiti, more effective than ever before. The First Lady has nearly half a million twitter followers, and the Pope tweets from the Vatican on his iPad. With the success of the social media movement thus far, what will the future hold?
In all likely-hood social media will become more and more of a cornerstone for social good and change as the services spread to more people. There’s simply no other outlet that creates and nurtures true vocal equality in this way. Social media has already started integrating with other tech services, particularly video.
Imagine nurses and patients in third-world countries accessing expert doctors around the world via video conferencing and social networks. Citizens could capture video in real-time at the scene to make a point to political and business leaders. Virtual protests aren’t far-fetched, why not viral virtual video protesting or video conferencing rallies? Video adds a more personal edge to an already personal service. That’s why conferencing products like iMeet are important, they understands the importance of social media and emphasizes it with product integration.
The global community is in a unique position. Every individual has more of a voice than ever before. Its sets the stage for the truest form of collaboration, and I believe hearing everyone’s opinions and ideas make change possible. The future of social good is bright, and social media only makes it brighter.
Have you shared your thoughts or opinions through social media? See what good you can spark, now more than ever, each of us can do our part to change the world.