Band-Aid-1984-Do-They-Know-Its-Christmas

By Bernadette Jiwa, Contributing {grow} Columnist

I didn’t know it at the time but back in 1984 (before Internet!) I lived through the first viral social media campaign. I witnessed Bob Geldof use the medium of music and Band Aid to mobilize a tribe of people around the globe to take action. Real action. In fact, he raised about $150 mm.

Until that moment, we were largely passive observers of media, consuming TV and news stories as mindlessly as we did Pringles chips — “once you pop you can’t stop.” We were unquestioning viewers and voyeurs. Outsiders looking in, sometimes moved and yet unmoving, stuck as we were to our sofas, our lives controlled by the scheduling of TV programmers.

While Michael Buerk’s report on the famine in Ethiopia deeply disturbed us, we still watched from a safe distance. Stunned observers of an unfolding catastrophe. When Bob Geldof got a group of friends together to make a record to raise money for the victims, he didn’t realize he was giving all of us a chance to step inside that story. Suddenly there was no poor them and lucky us. There was only us. Our story. We were all a part of the tragedy even if we weren’t living in it.

Ask any great screenwriter and she’ll tell you that the best stories enable us, the audience, to get inside them. I believe that’s true of all great social media too.

I was talking recently to the head of a very dedicated team at a non-profit. They are working so hard to engage with people via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and the good news is that their social media engagement levels is off the charts. But somehow their likes don’t convert to donations in cold hard cash. And I wonder if we need a new definition of what it means to be engaged? Does giving a  big “blue virtual thumbs up” make us feel like we’ve done our bit? But does it MEAN anything? Does it DO anything?

How do you turn the weak connections of social media into strong connections that take action?

The secret weapon of great social media is that it isn’t media (a means of mass communication). It’s actually a story, one that we feel we are a part of. Great social media doesn’t just engage us, it changes how we feel about something enough to make it part of our story and moves us to act, not just to “like.”

That is difficult, isn’t it?

But it always has been of course.

Do you remember what it felt like when you first heard this …

bernadette jiwaBernadette Jiwa is a Perth-based branding expert and story specialist. You can find more of her creative insights at her award-winning blog The Story of Telling

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