Have you ever considered what power lies at your fingertips?  

Malcolm Gladwell defines the Tipping Point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”  

The Imprint Point is that instance when a targeted action on social media is strategically planted, has a reverberating effect and creates a shift in discourse without exposing campaign efforts. It can be thought of as the real life version of the movie Inception. At Imprint Social, we operate under the assumption that social media has the ability to influence.  

Consider the potential power you wield on social media! With a single post, meme, video, or quote, you can make an idea go viral, shape the discourse surrounding an issue or even start a revolution. 

Not convinced? Read on…  

Consider some posts that altered history 

If power is defined as the ability to shape the future, then you might think that social media is impotent. But if you were to examine posts that originated or spread on social networks and altered history – removing external factors – then you might think differently.  

Remember the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? While there were multiple, ongoing promotional campaigns for ALS research (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease), it is commonly accepted that the Challenge went viral only after the athlete Pete Frates tweeted a video of himself “challenging” close friends and family. The Challenge exploded after his clever tweet, generating more than 118k posts within the first month – irrespective of previous celebrity promotions. In under two months, the Challenge raised $115m in donations, initiated more than 200 new research projects, grew awareness by over 100% and dominated multiple social media outlets. Now that’s one powerful tweet!  

Nike’s single tweet about its self-tying shoe – timed beautifully with the 30th anniversary of the film Back to the Future – started on Twitter and gained instant attention. It was quickly picked up and distributed by blogs, newspapers and websites, garnering over 10k retweets and 35 million views in nearly 10 different countries (not including Facebook). The use of influencers played a key role in helping the tweet go viral, but it was the proliferation through multiple platforms that resulted in an unparalleled reach

Talkwalker, a social media analytics and monitoring platform similar to Crimson Hexagon, cleverly shows how Nike’s tweet went viral by achieving multi-platform success. That’s one tweet, 9 outlets! Timing and multi-platform appeal are two elements to consider the next time you create compelling online content.   

Is the Tweet mightier than the sword? The posts that sparked revolutions 

Perhaps the most notorious case of social media shaping the future was identified by Washington University in a study of the Arab Spring, which concluded – after analyzing millions of data points – that “…social media carried a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East…”.  

Let’s explore how social media platforms were instrumental in shaping opinion, distributing information and facilitating organization that would produce a domino effect toppling governments across the region.   

Tarak Mekki, an exiled politician from Tunisia, expressed how Facebook played a key role in the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, where the government was tightly monitoring media and communication.  

During the week before Egyptian President Mubarak’s 2011 resignation, tweets in the Arab world increased from 2.3k to 2.3m tweets a day. Thousands of demonstrators flocked to the country’s Tahrir Square in protests organized on social media.  

Streaming on YouTube helped to spread information during civil unrest in Libya, where there was widespread demand for international SIM cards sought to spread information due to a lack of local internet access. 

Examples of social media used by activists to incite change go on and on: Syria, Bahrain and Yemen in the Middle East, and elsewhere such as Ukraine in Europe. All are often accredited to social media, if not completely, then undoubtedly in part.  

Suffice to say, causation will probably never be proven, but there is an obvious correlation between social media activity and the turn of events. In other words, engagements and, more specifically, social media marketing campaigns can make a difference.  

With great power comes great responsibility 

Of course, there are those that will argue that these and other phenomena are not about the medium (social media) but about the subject, audience and message; they would argue that the event itself is what spreads and that the vehicle of means is insignificant. But as was mentioned before, our assumption is that if we remove all sources which spread information aside from social media then we will be left with maximum impact.   

#BlackLivesMatter is a prime example of a specific hashtag inciting an entire movement – starting and growing almost exclusively within social media. In fact, according to a Crimson Hexagon analysis, the hashtag appeared in a single post as early as 2012 but only gained slight traffic in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin 

The hashtag went viral after this and similar events led to organized protests by activists who leveraged the movement again in 2014. But here’s the catch: the hashtag appeared multiple times before going viral a year later, demonstrating the incredible potential of personalized community marketing on social media!   

Social media is not only important as a tool used by grassroots movements. Let’s take a look at the consequential role it has played at the highest level of political expression – elections. 

Russia and Cambridge Analytica realized the potency of social media during the 2016 US presidential election and Brexit, respectively. In the case of the Trump-Clinton election, Russian backed hackers leveraged social media trolls and fake news to tap into the emotional aspects of voters, making a “decisive” impact on the election. During Britain’s referendum to withdraw from the European Union (EU), Cambridge Analytica used “innovative political marketing—microtargeting—by measuring people’s personality from their digital footprints, based on the [psychological] OCEAN model” to reach voters. How much of an impact they actually had is still debated, but the aftermath is known to all of us – oversight into the power of social media.2 

More recently, Euractiv published a June 2019 article on the obvious association between tweeting and newly elected members of the European Parliament, citing a recent study by PoliMonitor: “Political parties that tweeted the most were also the ones that won the most parliamentary seats…” While this statement presents an incomplete picture of election campaigning and success, show me a candidate today willing to forego social media marketing. This is exactly how one social media user can be integral to a digital community marketing project! 

There are those today who see social media as an almost omnipotent tool, and then there are those who argue it is overrated. The truth, like most things, is probably somewhere in the middle. Nevertheless, we can likely agree that, historically, social media has been momentous and, contemporarily, will continue to be relevant – just look at the global impact of President Donald Trump’s Twitter activity 

Who knows? If you can realize the power of social media, you just might create a tidal wave from a pebble!