Positive Effects of Social Media
Besides having opportunity to know a lot of people in a fast and easy way, social media also helped teenagers who have social or physical mobility restrictions to build and maintain relationships with their friends and families. Children who go overseas to study can still stay in meaningful contact with their parents. To a greater extend, there is anecdotal evidence of positive outcomes from these technologies.
In 2008, President-elected Obama won the election through the effective use of social media to reach millions of audience or voters. The Obama campaign had generated and distributed huge amount of contents and messages across email, SMS, social media platforms and their websites. Obama and his campaign team fully understood the fundamental social need that everyone shares – the need of being “who we are”. Therefore, the campaign sent the message as “Because It’s about YOU” and chose the right form of media to connect with individuals, call for actions and create community for a social movement. They encouraged citizens to share their voices, hold discussion parties in houses and run their own campaign meetings. It truly changed the delivery of political message.
Obama campaign had made 5 million “friends” on more than 15 social networking sites (3 million friends on Facebook itself) and posted nearly 2,000 YouTube videos which were watched over 80 million times. At its peak, their website, MyBarackObama.com, had 8.5 million monthly visitors and produced 400,000 blog posts. In order to ensure that their contents were found by people, the Obama campaign spent $3.5 million on Google search in October alone, $600,000 on Advertising.com, $467,000 on Facebook in 2008, etc. Currently, Obama’s Twitter account has close to 6 million followers.
In 2010, after the earthquake happened in Haiti, many of the official communication lines were down. The rest of the world was not able to grasp the full picture of the situation there. To facilitate the sharing of information and make up for the lack of information, social media came in very handy to report the news about the affected area on what happened and what help was needed. Tweets from many people provided an impressive overview of the ongoing events from the earthquake. BBC covered the event by combining tweets from the work of its reporter Matthew Price in Port-au-Prince at the ground. Guardian’s live blog also used social media together with the information from other news organisations to report about the rescue mission.
It has been two years since CNN officially launched iReport as a section of its website where people can upload video material, with contact information. During the Haiti crisis, CNN had published a range of social media material but not all the materials were verified. The editorial staff would vet the reports from the citizen journalists and labeled them differently compared to unverified contents. On Facebook, a group, named “Earthquake Haiti”, was formed to show support and share updates and news. It had more than 14,000 members and some users even pleaded for assistance to the injured Haitians in the group. Using email, Twitter and social networking sites like Facebook, thousands of volunteers as part of Project Ushahidi were able to map reports sent by people from Haiti.
The most impressive part of the social media’s impact on Haiti is the charity text-message donations that soared to over $10 million for the victims in Haiti. People interested in helping the victims are encouraged to text, tweet and publicize their support using various social networking sites. The Global Philanthropy Group had also started a campaign to ask wealthy people and celebrities, like Ben Stiller and John Legend to use Twitter and Facebook to encourage others to give to UNICEF. An aid worker, Saundra Schimmelpfennig, allowed the advice from other aid workers and donors to post on her blog regarding to choosing which charitable organisations to support. In the meantime, donors were asking questions in Twitter, Facebook and blogs about their donations and endorsements of their favourite charities. After every crisis, the social media for social cause becomes a more effective medium to spread the word.