September 2, 2014

What is Social Media, What is Twitter and How Can we use it for the Good?

As I sit here working on my article about how Social Media was used to help raise thousands upon thousands of dollars and to rally thousands upon thousands of volunteers to help in the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, missiles are being launched on our Israeli brethren by Gaza.  And how do I know this?  Because I am watching a live twitter feed from the IDF.

Live Twitter Feed from the morning of November 15, 2012

“IDF@IDFSpokesperson,‘ Good morning to our friends in #America. While you were sleeping, 3 Israelis were killed when a rocket hit their house’.

IDF@IDFSpokesperson, ‘Breaking: A rocket fired from Gaza struck an open area near Rishon LeZion, a city with more than 200,000 people. #IsraelUnderFire’.

IDF@IDFSpokesperson, ‘Our latest count: 245 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since yesterday. #IsraelUnderFire’.”

What is going on here?  Well, first its war.  May HKBHU protect all of k’lal yisrael especially those harmed by Hurricane Sandy and in Eretz Yisrael right now and may #PillarOfDefense be over with no casualties before this article is published. Second, it’s unadulterated news, a way to circumvent media biases and the miscommunication that occurs through the traditional media game of broken telephone.  Facts and information are being transmitted, or rather in social media speak are ‘streaming’ in real time, live, directly from the source.
@IDFSpokesperson is exactly that.  A spokesperson from the IDF who set up this twitter handle which is another word for a stage name (@IDFSpokesperson is a twitter handle) so that he can transmit information or have a conversation, open to the public, through the open media waves of social media, in this case, through Twitter.  And, I found this Twitter Feed through my Facebook Page.  I know, for those who are new to social technology, this may all be a bit confusing.  Let’s break it down.

What is Social Technology?

First, let’s explain social technology, otherwise known as social media.  Social Media is the revolutionary transformation of media, going from a top-down broadcast model to one that now allows what was once a passive audience to communicate with one another and take part in the content creation.  It is a new media-age form of communicating information, communicating news and facts or just chatting socially and passing on jokes, slogans or news articles through the technology we know as the Internet.  Social Media allows regular people to communicate with each other in real time. Officially, “social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction and the construction of words, pictures, video and audio” Wikipedia.org.   Similar to text messaging but with more visuals, video and audio, an easier flow and much more appealing user interface, social media is a new way people socialize, raise awareness, market, sell and advertise their products, businesses or information.  It’s also a new way to chat
with friends, keep in touch and be social.

The main social media platforms today are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pintrest also gaining in use and popularity.  While social media is a very important and increasingly necessary tool in marketing any business today, using it with filters and boundaries, as with anything on the internet, is very important.

Here are some very interesting social media statistics. Three out of four Americans use Social Technology.  Two out of three of the global internet population visit social networks.  Visiting social sites is the 4th most popular online activity (ahead of checking personal email). Time spent on social networks accounts for 10% of all Internet activity and is growing at 3x the regular internet growth rate, 13 hours of media is uploaded to YouTube every minute,  there are 100,000,000 YouTube videos viewed per day and 13,000,000 Wikipedia
articles.  In short, social media is not something that business owners can really ignore, if they are serious about growing their business outside of the heimish community.

What is Twitter?

Considered ‘microblogging’, Twitter is used to read, write and share messages of up to 140 characters. These messages, or ‘Tweets’, are available to anyone interested in reading them by simply following your Twitter handle like the one exampled above, @IDFSpokesperson.  Twitter offers a unique combination of open, public, and unfiltered information in the form of what’s been coined, ‘tweets’.  The @ sign represents your user name/twitter handle and the # represents a conversation thread that you can
post to or follow.  I’ve been following ‘ #IsraelUnderFire’ to stay up to date with the recent bombings in Israel through my Twitter Feed, which I showed you above.

Twitter is just communication in a new shape, but it’s also a platform for listening to the communication of others in new ways.

What is Facebook?

There are 5,000,000,000, yes, 5 billion minutes spent on Facebook each day.  Facebook is the largest social network in the world with over 950 million users worldwide. The average user has 130 Friends and spends about 20 minutes on the site 40 times a month.

Others

YouTube, Google+, Pintrest, Flickr and Instagram are other popular social media sites.  YouTube, bought by Google in 1996 for a whopping $1.65 billion dollars is a video-sharing website where anyone can upload, view and share videos.   Google+ is the social networking equivalent of Facebook created and owned by Google. It offers a different user interface and experience and is competing fiercely with Facebook for marketshare and leadership. Pintrest is a virtual pinboard or bulletin board designed for people to organize and share all the ‘beautiful things’ they find on the web.  People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.  Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application.  Instagram is a way to take photos and share them with other platforms like Flikr, Twitter and Facebook pages.

Hurricane Sandy Rescue & Relief Efforts

It’s no secret that technology can help us in many ways. What is amazing, though, is how wonderfully social technology has been
used to spread critical information and galvanize people into action.  During and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, new facebook pages and Twitter streams were created so that average citizens and chessed organizations could follow live and in real time what was
happening throughout Hurricane Sandy and learn about the areas damaged, what areas were still out of power, needing relief and how to help.  One small example is Masbia.org, a Kosher Soup Kitchen run by a Chassidic Jew, who leveraged social media by sending out
Tweets and Facebook page updates to get hundreds of extra volunteers within hours to help them go from 500 hot dinners a day to 3,000.  At the last minute, after a request came in from the US Councilman, Masbia galvanized enough volunteers and donation money
to feed hundreds of relocated seniors hot meals during the heavy snow after Sandy on Nov. 7, 2012.  Masbia has continued to use the power of social media for the good by  raising thousands of extra dollars, galvanizing volunteers and gaining a much higher profile.  Social media helped numerous other organizations raise awareness, volunteers and money in relief efforts that are still ongoing today.

Social Media & The Israeli Defense Force

Perhaps the most breathtaking use of social technology has been seen this past week when the IDF declared war through their twitter feed, as shown in the examples above. They used social media as a way to spread the truth and create positive Public Relations. Calling it a ‘Twitter War’, combatting online Hamas’ use of social media to tell fabricated stories, the IDF used the same social technology the way smart businesses are using it today, to communicate the truth in a personal manner.  In doing so, the IDF and Israel has gained far-reaching support from around the world, changing again the face of war and brilliantly bypassing traditional media and create a flurry of positive public relations and support.  Consider this, from The Jewish Press on November 16, 2008

“Now the official Twitter account of the Israel Defense Forces’ live-tweeting its assault on Hamas may well be the most meaningful change in our consumption of war in over 20 years. This is something new…the other thing that makes this new, besides routing around the traditional media, is that we’re looking at a stream. This is truly war in real time. We’ve watched war “live” before, but not like this: There are no commercial breaks, no talking heads, no ticker tape running at the time. It is as unending and infinite and microsecond by microsecond as the speaker wants it to be, limited only by Twitter’s current technical limits.  Most importantly, though, consider this: A country can declare — via Twitter — that it is at war. If that doesn’t make the Internet real, I don’t know what does.”

Technology is shifting power away from the editors, the publishers,the establishment and from the media elite.  Now it’s the people who
are in control.  Here’s a beautiful request from ‘an Israeli citizen’ expressing the positive power of social media:

“You hear the news, you check on our safety, you care and you are worried. Your concerns and well-wishes are greatly appreciated and they strengthen us. Thank you. Big time. But we are at war here. A real, seriously real war. And you – each of you can, should, must help. We’ll take the rockets. We’ll endure the missiles. We’ll send in our soldiers on-foot to Gaza to destroy terrorist hideouts, to detonate missiles launching pads, and to target suicide bombers on-rout to kill more of us. Rest assured, we will do all this. But YOU have a role in this war too – an important role, in an important battle. It’s the war against lies and deception, the war against misinformation and ignorance, the war against cheap propaganda and sheer hatred spared by the Palestinians and the news media behind them. When you see a post you care enough to like, care enough to share. Share the truth, share the information, let everyone know. Its’ a battle as important as the one we’re fighting here, and can literally save as many lives if not more. Don’t just like. Share. Educate, and spread knowledge. Share. Do your part, help us, fight with us. It’s the littlest you can do, and it’s the biggest thing you can do. For us, for you, for peace.  Make your posts public, and share them.  Thank you, with much love.”

On the flip side, information always needs to be filtered and some wisdom or chochma should be used when you post things on any social media site.   As reports of bomb sirens went off in Tel Aviv, there were others warning not to share specifics about where the bombs were landing since Hamas was also monitoring social media and twitter feeds….

The Israeli Defense Force has issued a warning to all Israelis on all social networking sites. Their warning urges Israelis not to post information on Facebook or Twitter about where rockets are falling and where sirens are being sounded. Hamas intelligence, IDF is warning, is closely monitoring Facebook and Twitter for such information; they’re then using that information in recalibrating their firing angles in order to target the rockets more efficiently.  We are living in a new world, in which common citizens can distribute information to millions. Terrorists know it. And it’s changing the very nature of war.”

With that, I hope you have a much better understanding of how Social Media and Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the events that are reshaping our lives right now.

In my next article, I hope to discuss how to use Social Media to help grow your business.

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