In 2004, the peaceful shores of South East Asia were swept away in hours by ruthless waves of tsunami and rest is the history. Exactly, that was an era, when Social Media waves were gathering in the world and building their momentum to change and challenge the centuries old marketing myths. The tsunami of Social Media has, in a few years, impacted the lives of individuals, organizations, societies, communities and nations. The arbitrary rules of information sharing by business organizations have been mercilessly reversed. It seems a stone age when organizations were controlling the flow of information. Now the information is in the hands of consumers and they are proliferating without any check and balance. It is an era of ‘user-generated contents’.
A maniac in Seattle makes a page at facebook “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” to satisfy his pervert wits of sadism and in hours the page viralled thousands of people. The idea was picked up by information hungry bloggers and then no looking back. The drawing page mentally tormented and tortured more than 1 billion followers of Islam and there was no way to stop that non-sense. Many countries went to an extent of banning facebook, article directories, video-sharing sites and thousands of web pages just to act like ostrich. Muslim hackers and IT geeks were unable to tame and control the multi-headed hydra of drawings. That is the tsunami of social media sites.
The old paradigm of information sharing has changed. Company reports are meaningless; it is ‘user-generated contents’ that matter now. Press releases have no value; we live in blogosphere. Websites are becoming redundant; consumers now want to interact with brands on social media. An update at the business page of a local brand Pakola at facebook with only 7,000 fans creates more than 5,000 impressions with hundreds of comments in less than 12 hours. The feedback is instant. All this happens at no cost. The message can be updated from your cell phone while waiting at red signal on the road.
Social media usage is number one activity on web these days and it has left behind porn. Facebook is the most visited website in the world followed by video sharing site YouTube (we are excluding the mighty Google for reasons of being search engine). If facebook had been a country, it is 3rd most populated country in the world with more than 500 million citizens swelling by 6 million members on daily basis. That means, every 14th person in the world is on facebook.
1 out of 8 couples in USA marry after getting connected via social media. Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users; while television took 13 years and internet took 4 years to reach this number. Facebook started its journey from the dorms of Harvard University and reached 100 million in just 9 months. Now world’s top brands, celebrities, anchors, players and politicians have fans and followers in millions. 80% companies use LinkedIn as their primary tool to find new employees, drastically reducing the cost of head-hunting. Around 100,000,000 million videos are watched daily on YouTube alone! More than 200,000,000 million blogs are working. Around 54% bloggers post contents and tweet daily. 34% bloggers post opinions about brands/products.
Viral effect created at Social Media can shake the companies in hours. There is an interesting case of budding Canadian guitar band with the name of Sons of Maxwell. In 2008, they were travelling by United Airlines from Hailfax to Omaha. The luggage staff mishandled and broke their $3500 worth of guitar. They tried to talk to the flight attendant about this incidence who cut them off saying: “Don’t talk to me. Talk to the lead agent outside”. After repeated knocking at the doors of various officials of United Airlines for six months, the guys got frustrated. They got the guitar repaired for $1200 and sent the claim to the company which refused to reimburse. Sons of Maxwell made a hilarious video “United, United, You broke my tailored guitar” on the customer services’ values of United Airlines and uploaded on YouTube and handed the marketing to social media. Four days after the release of song, share price of United Airlines dropped by 10%, costing shareholders $180 millions. So far, there are more than 9 million hits on YouTube (averaging daily viewership of around 10,000).
Social Media scene in Pakistan is in sync with global trends. According to alexa.com (a company that collects data on browsing behavior), facebook is the most visited website in Pakistan. Despite having fallen from grace after the drawing episode, still there are more than 3 million users and growing by around 5000 daily. Despite killing speed of life, you cannot escape from the memories of people if you are on the facebook. In November 2009, a little girl, Emanae Malik, died at Lahore’s one of the most expensive hospitals, Doctors Hospital, because of doctors’ negligence. Today she has more than 140,000 fans and her death has been transformed into a cause just because of facebook.
The business organizations in Pakistan are awakening to the crude reality that the tsunami of Social Media is upon us and the only way to leverage its mighty waves is to become part of it.