Social media has certainly played a role in some major social events, but is the motivating force behind these events, or does it merely capture the events as they are unfolding?
From a marketing perspective it is crucial to understand the limits of what social media can and cannot do in order to best meet the needs of your clients. No point promising them social media can save the world if it cannot.
As a communication tool social media is certainly unmatched in its reach and (potential) depth, but as a motivational tool it is no different than any other form of marketing. Which means, the message is still the most important part.
Since the beginning of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, social media such as Facebook and Twitter have attracted more attention than ever. Not only did anti-government activists manage to mobilize protesters with the help of the Internet. They also disseminated information much quicker than traditional media outlets.
So how did social media affect the traditional media in Arab countries? And how big a role did it play for toppling the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt?
“It was definitely a factor but I think it has been exaggerated,” said Blake Hounshell, Managing Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, in an interview with Al Arabiya. “The people in Egypt were sick and tired of Hosni Mubarak, they were sick and tired of poverty and corruption, and Facebook was a tool for them to express their grievances.”
Mr. Hounshell is convinced that social media helped the protesters to organize but adds: “When the Internet was shut off, people found other ways: they used their old landlines, they talked to people in their neighborhoods.”
Mishaal Al Gergawi, a columnist based in the United Arab Emirates, shares Mr. Hounshell’s view.
“I think social media played an important role but it did not play a founding role. It was a tool that amplified the message,” Mr. Gergawi said during a conference on “The Role of Media in Arab Societies” in Abu Dhabi. “With the absence of social media, the revolutions that took two or three weeks probably would have taken two or three months.”
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