Social marketing is an area I became interested in during the course of my master’s program, and more so after completing a class with a concentration on the effective use of communications for development. A significant part of it was dedicated to analyzing and creating cogent strategies for behavior change, capacity building, and raising awareness regarding social, economic, and political issues. Although social marketing, communications for development, and advocacy communications differ from each other, but at the same time often hard for many to tell apart, they are united by a common objective, that is social change.
In this regard, my interest expands to using social media for social impact. Social media is a powerful, what Chris Anderson refers to, “democratization” of tools which encouraged the use of more sophisticated and participatory approaches by businesses, non-profits, commercial and social marketers. It has given the crowd precious platforms to exercise its power: in this context, everyone working towards the goal of making the world a better place.
Collective action has formulations and theories in many areas of the social sciences. In this note I must say that, I really enjoyed reading the book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky which is a deep and engaging insight of how technology bolsters collaboration and crowd-souring.
The two examples that stood out the most for me are: the Belorussian protesters using LiveJournal to organize flash mobs to boycott Lukashenko’s government, and Wikipedia which Chris Anderson compares to a “live organism having the ability to heal itself”, thus referring to the collaborator’s immediate actions towards any form of vandalism. Besides these examples, I wanted to give a couple more on how technology has allowed other great projects to become reality due to a group’s collective activism.
One definitely worth mentioning is TED and its ambitious initiative to translate TEDTalks into different languages. TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading ideas globally, its logo – “Ideas Worth Spreading”. From its beginning as a conference in 1984 it invites the world’s most influential thinkers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes). Later TED made all these talks available on Ted.com, making it a powerful platform for collaboration and sharing ideas to a global audience. They cover multiple topics from science, technology, food, poetry to origami. TED’s Open-Translation Project launched with 300 translations in 40 languages and 200 volunteer translators. In the beginning, talks were translated professionally into 20 languages, but going on and up to this date, the project is completely reliant on volunteers who were able to do it themselves using the open-source platform they were provided. At the moment the talks are available on 70 Languages, with 2050 translators involved, and 4994 translations. Through the lens of the Long Tail one can argue that TED has one, too. The top left part being the hit talks (Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, etc.), and on the bottom right – niche interests such as bacteria, submarines, and apes.
Another great example of civil action is Earthtour.org which using social media encouraged close to 5000 cities in 88 countries in 2009 to participate in the Earth Hour which is ten times more the number of participants in 2008. Earthhour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change.