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Social Media is Capable of More Than We Think

Katie McPherson

Social Media is a close friend to the PR industry. I mean, who doesn’t love when a piece of coverage gets picked up and shared thousands of times over thanks to the power of social media? While one might not want to admit it, let’s be honest here: we all keep our phones next to us at our desks just in case we need that quick pick-me-up to check out one of the many available feeds. Social media is taking over the world. It is where people not only share content, but obtain news, communicate, learn more about the world around them and maintain nearly every aspect of their daily lives. Although a majority of us probably use our smart phones for unimportant or even meaningless tasks—like checking how many more likes we received on our overly filtered Instagram posts—for one mother, social media literally became a life saver for her teenage son.

On February 26th, a woman from Wayland, Michigan turned to Facebook Messenger to get in touch with 911 to help her choking son. However, instead of her Facebook message being sent to her local fire department, it was received by the Wayland, Massachusetts fire department, located 835 miles away. It just so happened that an off-duty firefighter was looking at his phone when he got her Facebook notification. The message he received was from the frantic mother asking for help. The firefighter realized the street address given was not located in Wayland, MA. This forced him to take to the internet to find the fire department the mother was trying to reach. In the end, it was the power of fast search engines, human interaction and a simple Facebook message that ultimately saved the life of the 16-year-old boy.

What are the key takeaways from this?
Besides the fact that everyone should have a phone to make situations like this avoidable, one can’t help but acknowledge how powerful social media can be as a communication tool. Social media has been consistently growing and at this point is a part of everyone’s daily life. In this case, it is the reason the off-duty firefighter was on his phone, and social media is ultimately what saved this teenager’s life. In other cases, social media has been a platform for inspiring, heartwarming and life changing stories for those who just simply wrote a post and bravely decided to click SHARE. Why would you not post a worthwhile story when it is as easy as the click of a button and have the chance to impact thousands, or even millions, of people?

Need another example? Look at the story of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and how it evolved to be the internet sensation that is was. The campaign started when pro golfer, Chris Kennedy, challenged his wife’s cousin, Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband suffers from ALS, to do the ice bucket challenge. Never did she expect her gesture to put a smile on her husband’s face would turn into a national phenomenon. Today, four years after this campaign took the world by storm, over $115 million dollars has been raised to support those suffering from ALS. Participants of this viral challenge included Ben Stiller, Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Derek Jeter, Lebron James and even the state of New York. Tens of millions of people were moved to action by this campaign—not only bringing a lot of awareness and positivity to the matter, but also a considerable amount of money. In this case, social media was not only able to provide support and encouragement for those suffering from ALS, but also helped educate individuals unaware of the disease. 

What does this mean for brands?
In order for a brand to be successful, they must have excellent customer service, more specifically, there needs to be a personal interaction between consumers and brands on social media. Look at Jet Blue—they pride themselves on responding to those who reach out via an online platform. If a customer messages Jet Blue, it is the company’s responsibility to reach out to them and to form a relationship with the customer. Here is a real-world example: a man by the name of Alex Siberman tweeted at Jet Blue about how ridiculous it was that he would have to pay extra in order to get on an empty and earlier flight. Jet Blue tweeted back at him explaining why this was, but do you think they stopped here? No! Alex Siberman was sitting down when a Jet Blue agent found him and brought him a backpack filled with goodies. The customer service team had let an agent at Boston Logan know what the situation was. With the hopes of maintaining a loyal customer, Jet Blue went out of their way for Alex Siberman, making sure that he still had a positive experience with the company. While we know this does not happen every day, it shows how being vocal on social media and the communication that can occur via these platforms can have a lasting impact on customer’s experience.  

So What?
In an age when we have so much information at our fingertips, it is important to understand not only the relationship we maintain but also the importance of the good news, and the impact it can have on us. Stories like the life-saving Facebook message from Wayland, Michigan helps us remember how important social media has become in our daily lives, and how powerful it can be when used to inspire and boost awareness about important causes. With this, many people underestimate the seriousness of social media. Anything you post on social media—whether it be a comment, tag, or picture, it is seen by many. With this understanding, it is vital to understand and think carefully about what you are posting and the affects it could potentially have on you—whether positive or negative. Additionally, social media has become a way for companies to have personal interactions and conversations with their consumers. There are many platforms, all with the ability to change the world whether it is raising awareness about a cause, turning someone into a millionaire or even spreading daily news. The web is made up of so many different parts that it is hard to even put into words what exactly the web is and what exactly it can do. What we do know is that it is one of the most powerful platforms that exists today due to the endless amount of information it contains.

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