If you are the owner of a social network, a social website, a social app or any other socially enabled communication platform on the Web, then you deserve to sit back, relax and have a cigar, because you are part of the (hype) machine, and that machine is in full swing!
The last month has been amazing in terms of showing the influence of social media. Three events unfurled to tell a story of the scope of social media and the virtual hype machine that it feeds, and you are insane if you’re not paying attention. If you’re a brand marketer, there are some interesting concepts to take away as well.
First we witnessed the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood social media fiasco and the Stop SOPA campaign, both of which -- though not globally on par with last year’s Arab Spring -- were significant watershed moments for the Web and social media to influence real-world activity. In both situations, a movement began in social media that caused the reversal of political-hot-button issues -- and the people’s voice was heard. Neither situation would have occurred without social media, and at the very least neither would have been reversed in such a short time.
Then there was the recent passing of Whitney Houston the night before the Grammy Awards. She was a huge influence in music, and one of the biggest, most definable voices ever recorded, and social media was immediately ablaze with the discussion of the sad event. The Grammy Awards followed up quickly, even changing some of its production to fit in the necessary tributes.
The third event is one that hasn’t even taken place yet. It’s the IPO for Facebook. Facebook’s impending celebration has the hearts of the Valley all a flutter with the scent of money. It smells like 1999 again, with secretaries and administrative assistants alike projected to be millionaires, and hundreds of people likely preparing to put down deposits on new homes in San Francisco. Facebook’s is likely to be the largest tech IPO in history. The ad business seems in line with this prediction, as they have selected Facebook as a preferred partner for ad dollars, surpassing Google in a recent industry survey. If Facebook is indeed as big as it proclaims it will be, then social will have overtaken search as the premier darling of the data-driven Internet ad business.
On the surface these events are connected by only one thing: they all center around social media. That in itself is all you need. Social media is the modern hype machine, but unlike the days of Public Enemy, in this case you probably should believe the hype.
The lesson here is that social media, and specifically the advent of Facebook and Twitter, is causing a reversal in media fragmentation. For years we’ve discussed how consumers are more difficult to reach with an effective frequency because of the way they spend their day. What these moments are telling me is that when there’s a topic of interest to a large group of people, and when the hype machine is in full force, fragmentation can be reversed and a singular point of view can actually be established in a small number of places. The fragmentation only takes place before users flock to social media. Social is the new hub.
Even in the case of the death of Whitney Houston, USA Today was running news stories on its iPad and iPhone apps that were nothing more than a collection of tweets from famous celebrities. Their version of a news story was the collection of celebrity tweets? That proves, if nothing else, that the journalists for USA Today were going to Twitter for their breaking news.
Fragmentation may be alive in terms of initial broadcast, but the machine is alive and well, and it is not going anywhere. The masses can be culled together for a single action, if you have a message that resonates with them. The Super Bowl showed that advertising could be used in this way, if you have the money to spend to reach enough of the audience at least once.
The lesson for a marketer is that if you are strategic, and you have enough money, you can indeed influence a large group of people at once. You can put the hype machine to work for you.
Don’t you agree? Who do you see that’s doing a good job of this?