January 17, 2001 marked the first time that social media caused the removal of a national leader. Within hours after the Philippine Congress voted to suppress evidence against President Joseph Estrada during his impeachment trial a protest was coordinated via text messages that read “Go 2 EDSA, Wear Blk.” Over a million people occupied Epifanio de los Santos Avenue in Manila causing legislators to reverse their decision and sealing Estrada’s fate.
Since then the same social strategy has been adopted around the world.
- 2004, Spain’s Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, was ousted after protests were organized by text messages.
- 2009, Moldovia, text messages, Facebook and twitter fueled massive protests in response to a fraudulent election and the Communist Party was defeated.
- 2002, The Boston Globe’s expose on sexual abuse in the catholic church went viral within hours.
- 2006, Belarus, street protests were organized against President Aleksandar Lukashenko.
- 2009, Iran, the Green Movement used social media to protest the voting miscount for Mir Hossein Mousavi.
- 2010, Thailand, the Red Shirt uprising used social media to coordinate the occupation of downtown Bangkok.
That is a lot of heavy information and not all of the above efforts were successful for the activists using social media. If we take a look at how some of the same principles have worked in the business place we can see a common thread, the power of giving a voice to the individual, both on the consumer side and the corporate side.
If we consider some successful social campaigns in the business world we can see that engaging the consumer on an individual level can produce incredible results with a minimal budget.
- Will it Blend by Blendtec, saw an increase in sales of over 700% after a series of youtube videos went viral through social media. The ridiculousness of blending objects such as iPads, Rubik’s cubes, skeletons and baseball bats was enough to get individuals to view and then forward the videos.
- Queensland Campaign for Australian tourism was launched through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube offering a significant prize to a random user and resulted in a 40% rise in web searches and the sale of over 9,000 directly purchased tickets.
- Old Spice created a series of “the man your man could smell like” videos that went viral and individuals started making spoof videos that even further increased the popularity of their original efforts. At the time of this article one of their videos has 38,730,236 views.
- Dell social marketing group claims to have raised over a million dollars in revenue by engaging customers on Twitter, informational blogs and an active Facebook presence.
- Comcast Cares campaign addressed dissatisfied customers by offering a direct connection between customers and service agents via Twitter and other social media platforms.
- Domino’s pizza claims 29% increase in profits through the use of social media platform Foursquare. By prompting users to check in and offering specials through the service they have been able to achieve deeper brand mention in the social sphere resulting in huge profit gains.
- IBM took the approach of direct communication through social media as well. By allowing employees to set up individual blogs and twitter accounts to directly engage with customers they boast a 10 to 1 return on their investment that translates to nearly $100 million dollars.
Although there is no pre-ordained outcome to any campaign, it stands to reason that the new communication technologies that empower the individual can have dramatic results.