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Ask the Egyptian Protesters if Social Media is a Passing Fad

Many people ask me if social media is just a fad – something that is popular today, but likely to go the way of the pet rock and other things that are popular for awhile, then disappear seemingly over night.

I have always answered a resounding “no” to that question.

Sure, any of the individual social media sites (such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter) could potentially fizzle out, and be replaced by “the next big site” on the horizon.  There is a likely a 12 year-old in his garage, creating that site right now.

But social media is much bigger than the tools typically associated with it.

  • It’s about creating a community and connecting with other people of like minds, for a common purpose.
  • It’s about engaging with people, and interacting with them, learning from them.
  • It’s about building relationships, across boundaries (whether those boundaries are across your town, or across the world)
  • It’s nothing new, people have been doing this forever – but the technology behind social media has enabled us to connect much faster, and much further, than ever before imagined.

I used to work for AT&T years ago.  Remember the old tag line – “Reach Out and Touch Someone”?  They weren’t selling telephones – they were enabling connections.  Social media is the new telephone – it allows us to reach out and touch millions, if we choose to.

The desire for that connectivity is a natural part of being human, and it is not going to fade away any time soon – if anything, it will only grow stronger as we are able to reach, and connect with, more people than ever before.

Nothing illustrates what I’m referencing more clearly than the current protests in Egypt, and what’s happened on the Internet as a result.

Late on January 31st, the last Internet service provider to Egypt cut off service, creating an Internet black-out throughout Egypt.  Service from the other main providers had been shut down since the previous Friday.

Protests in Egypt

Wanting to make sure that Egyptians had a means to communicate, Google and Twitter partnered to build an online voicemail service which sends out a tweet with each message over Twitter, with the #egypt” hashtag. (They created this over the weekend).

Then, SmallworldNews created a service providing translations into English from Arabic messages.  An article published on quotes SmallworldNews as saying “We were so impressed and excited with the technology and the number of calls coming in that we wanted to help bring the voice of the Egyptians to even more people.

The beauty of this new service?  It requires no Internet connection.

This is social media transcending the technology.  It’s not about Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or YouTube.  It’s about the spontaneous engagement that happens between people when they interact, because of the age-old desire to connect and communicate with others.

I realize the majority of you aren’t faced daily with a situation like what the Egyptian protesters are going through, thankfully.  But do you know what happens when people connect with each other?  They find commonalities, build relationships, and discover ways to help each other.  And that sounds like a great way to reach your goals – whatever they may be.

Caroline Melberg

Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimization & Social Media Strategist

Published on: February 4, 2011