April 21, 2013

This Is Not About Marketing

#BostonStrong

It's about the behavior enabled by social media and how we still have a lot to learn about being a community that lives, breathes, watches, shares and does just about everything including listening to police scanners ' online.

Being a Bostonian and living through last week's events has made me reflect on a lot. My deepest condolences go out to those who have a suffered loss or injury. And, when it hits 'home,' it really does. No longer are there 6 degrees of separation, everyone knows someone who has been affected.  And, throughout this experience, our city has shown an un-surmounted pride that reigned strong throughout the airwaves, digital or not. But, what's got me is that this 'always on' movement of social, content and communities is bigger than any of us can even imagine ' and it came to light last week.

Social Media is a Game Changer

Social media, especially Twitter, has completely changed the game. Sure, there is the issue of speed vs. accuracy in the race to 'be the first' to break news, but we aren't even skimming the surface here. Friends were alerted about the marathon explosions seconds after they happened, so they could get off their bus; loved ones used social to alert others they were safe in the absence of cell coverage; and words of encouragement, pride and support were shared near and far. But, what you didn't read in your social channels was the deep-rooted fear that existed behind each in every tweet.

We will always be #BostonStrong, but social had an adverse effect as well ' building fear and anxiety as people obsessed over every detail. From fake social profiles to the real ones, to the brilliant use of social for donation solicitations, I found myself in a love/hate relationship with my social channels. Rumors spread faster than the speed of light and what made it worse was the media was now even retracting statements.

Who Controls the News?

Coverage on TV was delayed and just didn't feel as detailed as what I was seeing on Twitter and Facebook. When you have homeowners reporting live with video, photos and tweets to update the public on what was going on in their backyards, how can you wait for a generic statement from the newscasters 10 minutes later? Gunshots vs. Flash bombs, evacuations and threats ' it's crazy that I found myself 'trusting' a complete stranger that others were endorsing as being the my most accurate, up-to-date source of information online.

I also have to mention the hundreds of thousands of police scanner app downloads that occurred during the course of last weeks' events. So much sharing was happening that police asked the public to stop talking about what they were hearing in fear of jeopardizing the safety and security of their mission. It's confusing, trivial and makes me wonder if any marketing course will ever be able to put definition behind this proliferation of sharing especially when I 'found out' we took the bad guy into custody at least 5 minutes before I saw it on 'live' TV. It's hard to tell if this organized chaos will help us catch the bad guys sooner or if it will lead to riots, mass hysteria and even ultimate unraveling of our society in the near future.

The Power of Real-Time Information

Real-time information sharing enabled by social media is undeniably powerful and altering the way in which we communicate. In the case of this past week, I must say it was scary, exhilarating, and powerful'all in one.  Now, all I can do is hope that by the time my daughter is my age, we've figured out a way to use its powers for nothing but good. Until then, put your seat belts on. The way we are living our lives is changing before our eyes and screens, as we know it.

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