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Friday Five: The Viral Nature of Social Media

The unforeseen ease of sharing content at what seems like the speed of light has been made possible all thanks to social media. In 2012 alone, we’ve seen brands dragged through the mud, increase awareness of campaigns, and gain/lose political support. We’ve become so accustomed to socializing via social media channels that we can’t even remember how we functioned before social media revolutionized the way we interact, engage, and share.

PRSA’s “Friday Five” post — an analysis of the week’s biggest PR and business news and commentary — explores the intentional use of social media by organizations and people to rally a conversation, good or bad. Once that conversation takes off, you have officially gone viral and there is no telling where that conversation may be headed. This week we will look at the positive and negative effects of social media sharing. We will also look at two entities that went viral as a result of social media, KONY 2012 and Greg Smith’s resignation letter in a New York Time’s Op-Ed.

It Helps Us Create Everything…Good and Bad (socialmediatoday)

Five early adopters Brad Pendergraph, podcaster, blogger, and manager of consumer digital & social engagement at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Sarah Weinstein, director of music video and content at The Matrix, Noel Hidalgo, director of emerging technologies at the World Economic Forum USA, Steev Hise, new media artist, filmmaker, and activist with a passion for social justice and the environment, and Craig Hickman, tennis blogger and contributor to the Huffington Post, have joined forces to create a video series that reflects on the delicate balance of positive and negative in a world increasingly influenced by social media. This video series explores the changes in technology, knowledge and the social fabric of the Internet.

KONY 2012: Social media and crisis communication lessons learned (Holts Communications + Technology)

The launch last Monday of the KONY 2012 video is a massive social media success. The video went viral across a number of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and blogs, and picked up plenty of mainstream media coverage. The video took only two days to rack up over 30 million views. That is the power of social media—supported by an orchestrated, long-term effort to lay the groundwork for the video’s release. The viral nature of the video was no accident, then; nor was it the result of a spontaneous desire to spread the word of Joseph Kony’s barbarity. It was, in fact, the execution of a carefully crafted strategy. Shel Holtz examines Invisible Children’s approach and well crafted strategy and provides some key takeaways from their campaign model.

  • Have a clear call to action.
  • If you appeal to people’s emotions, they won’t dig much deeper than your message.
  • Corollary: A legitimate cause will push secondary concerns to the background.
  • Be prepared for scrutiny.
  • Finally, think through your timing.

KONY 2012: How Social Media Fueled the Most Viral Video of All Time (Mashable)

Mashable’s Zoe Fox discusses the The Pew Internet and American Life Project’s investigation of how KONY 2012 became the most viral video of all time. The key, Pew found, was 18 to 29-year-olds sharing links on Twitter and Facebook. While initially 77% of Twitter discussions were positive, the tone shifted as criticisms of the non-profit behind the film, Invisible Children, began to circulate. Pew’s takeaway: the importance of social media for spreading news to young readers.

I Quit. And Ignited a Social Media Firestorm. (Deal Journal/The Wall Street Journal)

KONY wasn’t the only topic that spread like wildfire across social media this week. Social media has been abuzz this week with chatter about Greg Smith’s very public resignation from Goldman Sachs. Greg Smith, however, was not the first “I Quit” heard round the social media world. Other executives and CEOs have caused a similar ruckus. The Wall Street Journal’s Emily Steel shows us some social media reactions to Mr. Smith’s “I-quit” and other resignations that went viral.

Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith and the Fantasy Job Exit (Post Leadership/The Washington Post)

For many of us, the thought of quitting in such a public display remains just that, a thought, never actually being executed for fear that we’ll regret it forever. But what happens when social media enters the picture? Do we suddenly become brazen enough to repeat the antics of Steve Slater, who slid down a plane’s emergency exit, or Greg Smith, who put his resignation letter in The New York Times. With tools like Twitter and Facebook at our fingertips to broadcast our complaints to the world, the temptation for such a forbidden act is more tantalizing than ever, which somewhat explains the viral response of the letter, which lit up the Twittersphere this week and sparked discussion around the world. The Washington Post puts a different spin on Greg Smith’s resignation and explores the social media drive behind taboo quitting methods.

Nicole Castro is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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Nicole Castro


  • […] Friday Five: The Viral Nature of Social Media | PRSAY – What Do You Have to Say? The unforeseen ease of sharing content at what seems like the speed of light has been made possible all thanks to social media. In 2012 alone, we’ve seen brands dragged through the mud, increase awareness of campaigns, and gain/lose political support. […]

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