Ad-dendum: The Transformational Power of Social Media

Published: November 3, 2015 12:40:13 AM

The combination of social media and technology is putting citizen concerns first, crowdsourcing relief in crises and reinforcing the power of connectivity, communities and the power of #Now

Natural disasters are unavoidable. People can predict and prepare but not prevent them. Hence, it is in such times that digital disruption has a positive impact on society, with platforms using the power of real-time connectivity to mobilise relief almost instantaneously, and helping us to connect with the right communities.

For example, last year Twitter was able to conduct 12,000 rescue leads, and we were able to involve the Indian Army, India’s National Disaster Management Authority, and airlines in a large-scale rescue operation. Within 24 hours, the simple hashtag #Kashmirfloodrelief brought together people from different parts of India and around the world for relief efforts, and a website was set up to collate the information and direct donors. The hashtag led to the creation of @InCrisisRelief, which is today used as a citizen-led disaster relief handle, being managed by a volunteer group. During the floods, @JKFloodRelief used its Twitter account to share information.

Projects of this nature would normally have required a large, organised task force. However, the tides of digital disruption are transforming the way teams work. Whether it’s the use of a hashtag or search, the moment the power of algorithms is added to a massive undertaking, the scale changes dramatically, allowing the amplification of reach with minimal additional effort. At one point during the Kashmir floods, we saw 200 Tweets per minute with the hashtag #JKfloodrelief, but the computational power of algorithms gave us the ability to handle the deluge of live information and allowed not just relief workers but the local and global community to respond quickly to the needy.
The combination of social media and technology is putting citizen concerns front and centre not just in times of national crisis, but over day-to-day issues. We live in incredibly hopeful and exciting times. Half of all Internet, mobile and social media users worldwide are in Asia Pacific today. 60% of all millennials (ages 16-24) will reside in Asia by 2020. There is no greater time to be in the business of social media, and there is no better place to be in than Asia.

Digital disruption is changing how communities find and allocate resources. This also applies to traditional businesses looking for talent in the digital age. Chris Andersen, CEO of 3D Robotics, mentioned that if you build communities you don’t have to find the right people—they find you. Social media networking plays a big role in matching highly skilled free agents with companies that require their particular expertise. Intermediaries that provide matchmaking services have already begun cropping up, yet for companies it remains vital that they establish a clear presence in the social media ecosystem. Ideas flow more freely than ever before on public platforms, and when it comes to recruiting young talent, social media targeting tools can help you reach the right potential audience.

At the heart of social media’s power is engagement. People want to engage—and they want to do it in real time in a natural, conversational way. Digital connectivity and mobility has fueled an era of real-time online participation in the most invigorating and valuable ways. This online expression now happens almost simultaneously with offline experiences, whether they’re episodic moments or regular day-to-day moments. Smart brands are learning how valuable this is, and the smarter brands are quick to act.

In emerging Asian markets like India and Indonesia, where digital natives are mobile first, and even in mature economies, where social media use has developed into its own art form, it is impossible to ignore the impact social media platforms have in spurring digital disruption. What we have observed universally is that organisations that are committed to social media are a step ahead on moving towards the disruptive ACE (algorithm, communities, engagement) model and pioneering innovative concepts such as the ones I mentioned above.

From community-led disaster relief efforts and real-time customer service to personal branding and brand outreach, one thing is certain—no one can afford to ignore connectivity and the Power of #Now. We may have started the Web as a repository of moments past, but the social layer that has evolved in an era abundant in personal connected devices has amplified that need to stay informed and engaged in the moment when that active participation matters to us the most.

By Taranjeet Singh

The author is business head, Twitter India

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