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The Coming of Age for Social Media -- Experiencing the Crisis in Egypt

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As a PR/Communications professional, I know that the best messaging is done by those who use the power of words and images. Images provide the visceral pull and draw people in to create conversation. The written/spoken words accompanying images will delineate and frame a message but must engage enough so as to create a following who is actionable toward something. The essential steps include crafting a "big idea" (core messages) and pushing it our through multi-channel distribution across both social media and traditional media channels. To maximize outreach, its important to consider the strength of each channel and how the message should look/feel there. Aligning your core messages across different channels is a best practice. That is the roadmap.

Many times, pr/media campaigns will intentionally coincide with events to virally fuel their messaging. For example celebrities might announce a tour in conjunction with a Grammy nomination. Other times, world events happen which are unpredictable. There is the spiraling initial events which shape the story. I feel that recent events have aligned in a way to move our world forward which is palatable. How is it that we can almost "feel" the anger, "see" the chaos, "hear" the crowd chanting and experience a sliver of the confusion, terror and frustration of the Egyptian people as they move toward an unknown future? The world watches anxiously at real-time events unfold. It is the curse/blessing of information access.

Within the hour of the initial rioting, the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and text messages were the main channels of information. Subsequently, traditional media descended with television cameras and well-known reporters clamoring to be associated with this breaking story. Words and images flew across our television screens, Blackberrys, iPhones in the form of emails, texts, Tweets and images. The cataclysmic event in Egypt which triggered the government to take the Internet down was an ineffective attempt to control the distribution of words and images.

On that day, people moved quickly to the Internet as a source of real-time information on a breaking world news story. The Egyptian government's knee jerk reaction of taking the Internet down cued the world to the magnitude of the event immediately. The average age of an Egyptian is 24 years old. When the Internet went down, they moved to a different platform to distribute and communicate information. They used Twitter and text messaging. It strikes me as a measurable important world event in which technology played a major role in the outcomes. This impacts Egypt, the all-important Middle Eastern region and ultimately, the world.

I am now curious to see the impact that this will have on social media for "Main Street" and "Wall Street" American. Did this event lead to popularizing and familiarizing more Americans (and I am assuming others around the world) in the power and outreach of social media? How will we know? What measure for ROI will be used for such an outlier event? Or is it an outlier? Didn't the viral impact of the story create "copycat" movements in Tunisia and Yemen? How does this type of "crowd-sourcing" impact us?

As an early adopter of social media, I am continually evangelizing on the benefits of the "soft-art" of pr vs. the hard science of selling. It is sometimes difficult to convince others of the importance of information and its distribution and communication across the variety of platforms available today. The January 25, 2011 crisis will be remarkable in history due to its significance to the world but also in its obviously real-life demonstration of the power of information. If you are a "Flintstone" in social media, it is time to become a "Jetson."

Currently, if you "like" this article you can share it across a variety of platforms to help the outreach of this message. That is one way we can "see" and measure some impact.

And in case there are any interested early adopters, I am currently in negotiations with Huffington Post to add a "Share in SkyWriting" link...

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