Power of Social Media & Power of the People Need to Remain Distinct

In the past couple weeks, various news outlets have credited social media for unrest in the Middle East, ranging from Tunisia to Egypt.

Only recently, however, have smarter media begun covering what should have been obvious along: social media is just a channel for communication.  It can be an extremely powerful channel – but in these cases, the medium is not the message.

Jon Stewart’s analysis of the “Egypt Twitter Revolution” has been talked about in several circles, as it’s quite adept.  On one of last week’s shows, he said, “If two speeches and a social media site is all we needed to spread democracy then why did we invade Iraq — why didn’t we just, I don’t know, poke them.”

Mocking? Yes.  But, also true.

Of course, in both Tunisia and Egypt, a great many other factors are/were in play, such as economic turmoil and societal unrest for starters. Each provided the necessary spark for riots and protest.  Social media channels just connected users with similar sentiments and helped them organized quickly and directly. The government can own television and radio stations, but no government will ever own all social media channels.

If the internet is on, these channels with present an authentic voice of the people, providing the people are not sharing false messages out of fear of being watched (as the New York Times noted in an article this weekend, K.G.B. agents in Belarus now routinely quote activists’ Facebook posts during investigations).

The Egyptian government, as many are likely aware, choose to flip the switch on the internet and mobile phone networks last week, in hopes it will also shut off the current revolution at the same time. It won’t work, but it will likely create a detour for organizations used to distributing messages via email, SMS, forums, or Twitter etc.

It’s a move that many in the U.S. found shocking, but this type of government mandated control won’t surprise those in the Middle East. Last year, the government in Saudi Arabia temporarily banned Blackberry’s because they wanted supreme control over the content being shared within their borders.  It’s not that different, actually, than governmental demands in Egypt, sans protesting, if you think about it.

But, blacking out the internet won’t destroy content or societal rage at governmental regimes.  It will only stop the flow of information momentarily, forcing modern day protesters to gather in more antiquated ways.

Social media’s power to disseminate information and the power of the information being shared are two very different entities. The sooner the two concepts are separated from one another, the better

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Power of Social Media & Power of the People Need to Remain Distinct

In the past couple weeks, various news outlets have credited social media for unrest in the Middle East, ranging from Tunisia to Egypt.

Only recently, however, have smarter media begun covering what should have been obvious along: social media is just a channel for communication.  It can be an extremely powerful channel – but in these cases, the medium is not the message.

Jon Stewart’s analysis of the “Egypt Twitter Revolution” has been talked about in several circles, as it’s quite adept.  On one of last week’s shows, he said, “If two speeches and a social media site is all we needed to spread democracy then why did we invade Iraq — why didn’t we just, I don’t know, poke them.”

Mocking? Yes.  But, also true.

Of course, in both Tunisia and Egypt, a great many other factors are/were in play, such as economic turmoil and societal unrest for starters. Each provided the necessary spark for riots and protest.  Social media channels just connected users with similar sentiments and helped them organized quickly and directly. The government can own television and radio stations, but no government will ever own all social media channels.

If the internet is on, these channels with present an authentic voice of the people, providing the people are not sharing false messages out of fear of being watched (as the New York Times noted in an article this weekend, K.G.B. agents in Belarus now routinely quote activists’ Facebook posts during investigations).

The Egyptian government, as many are likely aware, choose to flip the switch on the internet and mobile phone networks last week, in hopes it will also shut off the current revolution at the same time. It won’t work, but it will likely create a detour for organizations used to distributing messages via email, SMS, forums, or Twitter etc.

It’s a move that many in the U.S. found shocking, but this type of government mandated control won’t surprise those in the Middle East. Last year, the government in Saudi Arabia temporarily banned Blackberry’s because they wanted supreme control over the content being shared within their borders.  It’s not that different, actually, than governmental demands in Egypt, sans protesting, if you think about it.

But, blacking out the internet won’t destroy content or societal rage at governmental regimes.  It will only stop the flow of information momentarily, forcing modern day protesters to gather in more antiquated ways.

Social media’s power to disseminate information and the power of the information being shared are two very different entities. The sooner the two concepts are separated from one another, the better.

Groupon Guilt

I used a Living Social coupon tonight at a champagne bar and felt dirty afterwards. Living Social is one of the throngs of Groupon-like competitors in the market right now and functions the same way– even if Groupon is still the most ubiquitous name. I paid $25 and got $50 worth of champagne. Sounds pretty great, right?

Except I felt like I was a leper actually using it.

The same thing happened a month ago when I used a massage coupon. The masseuse sighed when I gave him the coupon, groaning that they only had 200 left to be redeemed. Out of 600. The spa had a $50 for $100 worth of service fee.

I think there are likely a few issues afoot, albeit none of them are my (or the consumer’s fault). The main issue is that Groupon/Living Social salesmen reach out to the store owner, of course. And that owner decides that the deal is good for business. But, that knowledge may or may not get passed down to the servers. And, it may not be clear to the consumer that they still need to tip based on the non-discount price.

And, even if they do tip the full price, the establishment has already been paid for their goods whether or not the customer actually uses them. In fact, it’s better for the business when the customer totally forgets about the coupon. Certainly, between serving a Groupon customer vs a normal customer, it’s a better choice to serve the full-paying customer.  The same concept applies to Restaurant Week.

Strategically, I understand the above, but . . . it still leaves me feeling like I somehow shortchanged the waitress.  That she spilled a drink on my boyfriend and comped one of our 4 drinks actually only made it worse. We both felt horrible — guilty even.  We both kind of wished they hadn’t comped him at all, and we just paid a bit more beyond our coupon for the drinks.  Heck, we almost wish we hadn’t gotten the Living Social Deal…which I’m fairly certain is not the desired effect that business wants.

So. How to make it better? First, business owners need to educate their staff on their business goals and how the deal helps them. Does it bring new customers to the store enhancing the likelihood of future business? Does it get rid of excess stock? No matter the reason, the staff needs to be on board. Maybe the owners need to pay a bit more to compensate the staff for the deal users’ first visit.

There really are quite a few ways to handle this issue — but me itching to leave the establishment isn’t it.