Social Media’s Quiet Revolutions

There’s a revolution taking place in social media, far away from the turbulent drama of headline news. On Twitter and Facebook social media is changing ordinary people. Here the revolutions are the simple connections and opportunities to transform and add value to people’s lives. This is a challenge that brands need to understand when dealing with social media, that through their engagement with consumers, value transference is important, and could even revolutionise lives and communities.

In the Cape Flats, Marlon Parker has been instrumental in all sorts of rehabilitation in his community. For We all know about the revolutionary power of social media in the global arena. Egypt and the ousting of Hosni MubarakLibya and the ousting of Gaddafithe tsunami in Japan that the world saw through the eyes of witnesses. These cataclysmic event experiences are captivating, but so too are the simple life changing interventions that social media facilitates away from the global stage. In our own backyards, social media has realised major innovations.

Marlon Parker (with the iPad in hand)Image courtesy of Russell Watkins/DFID

Marlon Parker (with the iPad in hand)
Image courtesy of Russell Watkins/DFID

Parker, the appeal of computers and the internet presented an opportunity to reach out and offer value to the community. It was a perfect example of packaging the message of empowerment in a way the community of the Cape Flats best understood. And the message expanded to include other forms of empowerment like rehabilitation of drug addicts by recovered drug addicts; counselling for gang members;  debt counselling and continued computer training. This inventive outreach is called RLabs.

Parker opened up a new universe by crowd sourcing counselling from former drug addicts, felons and gang members. Beneficiaries of this crowd-sourced service were community members who went into this virtual community in need and walked out better people. Now that’s a best case scenario for social media right in our backyard. RLabs lives up to Eric Qualman’s adage, “it’s a people driven economy”. There are a lot more success stories out there of people leveraging social media to offer value to people and engender better communities.

Coming back to branding, unless businesses consider this ‘benevolent architectural form’ of social media and start to think differently, they could short when it comes to engagement. Brands should consider the quiet revolutions engendered by social media that change the game (of life). Ultimately, social media is firstly social, before it is media, and it is when brands truly get this that they can be thought leaders.

If you want to delve deeper into how social media works, take a look at the paper I presented at the recently held PAMRO conference in Uganda entitled Social Media: Thnk dfrnt. The paper focuses on an alternative approach to social media and takes stock of quiet social revolutions. Access this paper here.