Clay Shirky: How social media can make history

Clay Shirky provided a brief, though insightful, presentation to how communication has evolved over time.  He provided chronological examples of messaging inventions and their limited communication capabilities—the movement of type and print, individual communication through the use of telephones, mass media through movies, television and finally, the fastest growing—the internet.

The use of the internet and later creation of social media has been a gateway for multichannel communication; it is no longer a one way conversion.  Social media allows “amateurs” —as Shirky describes—to speak with each other, inform each other and express themselves in a more flexible fashion. For amateurs, this is a powerful tool that can be used in a powerful way, though some businesses may not see this new power in the same manner.  Companies traditionally had—to some extent—the authority of what was being said about their brand; today with the strength of social media those privileges has been somewhat taken away.  Their voice isn’t as strong as it perhaps used to in the past—people are dictating, reacting and voting how and what company’s brand stand for and this alone could be a brutal reality in how companies are delivering themselves to customers.  The best solution for a company is not to hide or diminish their values but to express and react to what people are saying—become transparent and be honest.  Let those who are speaking about you know where the company stands and how a situation is going to be handled.   Tell the truth.

Shirky provided a quick story about the Obama campaign.  Him and his fellow marketers created a website where voters could read and follow his stance on certain political issues.  People where pouring in, opting to receive emails, commenting and expressing their support.  Though, when Obama changed his stance on a certain bill, a large group of supporters weren’t too thrilled.  They expressed their dislike, their concerns and comments – traditionally, this has only been a one way communication line, though social media has opened the line for everyone to speak their opinion.  Even though Obama lost a few votes on that account, he was able to speak to those voters who expressed their concern, and let them know he understands, he listened and wanted people to know he still felt strongly to go forward with the bill.

People were privy to the fact he was honest and responded.  The negative comments weren’t removed, yet addressed.  The fact is, all people are not going to be all smiles, those who are frowning need a conversation, need a reason to perhaps become happy.  A large portion is to understand where people are coming from and address those concerns in which they may have.


About Spinto

Where to begin.... I was born and raised in the Burlington, Vermont area. After graduating college at Lyndon State College (wayyy northern Vermont), I moved to Massachusetts to work for a promotional products company. A few years later I relocated to western Massachusetts where I took a job at a community college as their in-house marketing manager. During this time, I decided to open the floodgates and own and operate my own business named Otnip Graphics. Otnip Graphics helps to positively promote business' through innovative marketing strategies and branded design collateral. All while this is going on, I decided I wanted to expand my knowledge in marketing to help our college keep a competitive advantage over local colleges, thus I enrolled myself in graduate school at SNHU to achieve my goals. Keeping myself busy and motivated is the only way I know and wouldn't change anything! On a more personal level (because I do have a personal life, I think...) I am getting married next October (Oct. 20) in Vermont. I have been chipping away at the large and small details to complete our wedding plans and hopefully while I accomplish all that I set out to do, I can relax and enjoy the wedding, and yes, the planning too. My hobbies include any kind of crafts/art projects I can get my hands on, watching brain rotting TV, skiing, running and enjoying time with my fiance and our little silky terrier, Pixie Lou.

2 responses »

  1. Shirky really did hit home with his reference about how amateurs can discuss ideas or viewpoints and reach a larger audience than they used to. I do think that companies have to be particularly sensitive to the new social media options because it can either make or break a company. However, the comments and suggestions about certain products/services from their consumers can really increase productivity. They can listen to what their consumers have to say about products/services and try to improve upon the design elements. Social media communication can also transcend to public figures or national companies who have a large part in society. Shirky addressed this with his Obama reference. I think it was a great decision for Obama to listen to the negative feedback he received from his supporters. Rather than ignore or delete the comments, he addressed them and attempted to either fix areas that were of concern, or express why he decided to continue to move forward with his decisions. Social media can be a powerful tool; yes it can hurt companies, political and public figures alike, but it can also bring insight into an area that maybe didn’t get too much thought before. If you listen to the people who are making you what you are today, you have a better chance to continue your success. Failure at any level is likely especially in today’s society where the media can pick you apart at the drop of a hat, but the ability to use social media as a tool to change the outcome is what is really fascinating. We have no idea the power of social media until we decide to use it.

  2. You hit it on the head! It’s impossible it is to censor the “amateurs” from the internet and getting word out and honestly I’m sure shutting down twitter only did so much. The thing about the internet is its a virus that’s going to get you no matter how much you hide or censor it. Companies are having their employee sign affidavits that they won’t post anything negative about the company. The worst part about these things is it doesn’t tell you what they consider bad. I think the reason why some companies don’t have SM is because they are scared of the ramifications of negative publicity. But as he stated this gives you the opportunity to answer anything immediately rather than just getting rid of the comment or tweet, because let’s face it at least one other person has seen it before you have the chance to delete it. So by doing that you’re only going to cause more of a buzz, people are going to talk if you do that.

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