As the holiday decorations come down and the countdown to the new year gets closer, media outlets like to do a year in review. This is especially true for news stories that had a big social media element. As news and social media continue to intertwine, the stories take on a life of their own online. Many times, the story breaks online first then is picked up by traditional media. This year was no different. From the #IceBucketChallenge to #BeenRapedNeverReported, Twitter was a defining force in showcasing what people were paying attention to in 2014.
Here are the #SPARKER Top 5 social media stories of 2014:
#Sochi #WeAreWinter — the 2014 Olympics were invariably the most socially shared, driven, and marketed games to date. From the athletes to brands catching Olympic fever, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the games. Even before the opening ceremonies, social media was being used to share stories criticizing the construction challenges and astronomical costs of staging the games in Sochi. Once the games were underway, the Twitterverse came alive with the first photos of the Olympic villages and venues. During the games, fans tweeted and shared moments and pictures on Facebook too. In Canada, the final gold medal game for both the men and women’s hockey were incredible draws both on television and social media. It was a frenzy, and you could tell it was driving your American friends a bit crazy. But hey, we live hockey here. Deal with it. And besides, two teams, two gold medals–#WeAreWinter indeed. UPDATE: As I post this, Canada’s gold-medal Olympic men’s hockey team has been named Canadian Press team of the year.
Social justice: #BlackLivesMatter #BeenRapedNeverReported I’ve always said Twitter is the great democratizer of conversations. Twitter and social media remove the gatekeepers and allow individuals to offer their opinion and experience for events happening in the moment in front of them or events on the other side of the world. This has never been more apparent than this year. With the Egypt uprising last year to the breaking of the Jian Ghomeshi story nationally, and Ferguson, Mo. this year, social justice has taken on a new form in the technological age. Social media gives a voice to those who otherwise feel disenfranchised by systems in place. If anything, this should give us all a sobering look at the systems in place, and any inherent bias within these systems that keep justice from being served.
Locally, pressure (both offline and online) continues to be put on the federal government who thus far has refused an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women #MMIW.
Ellen Breaks the Internet/Social TV: Oscar’s host Ellen DeGeneres broke a Twitter record (formerly held by President Barack Obama) for the most retweets of a single picture and message (3.4m).
Social media was made for moments like this. A perfect example of how a live event can add another layer of interaction among those not even present at the moment. Social media integration with television was on fire this year. If you wanted to save that PVR’ed episode of #WalkingDead you had better avoid social media till you can sit down and watch it. Prefacing your tweet with #SpoilerAlert is almost meaningless as the tweets and posts move in perfect time as the scenes unfold on the screen.
Timing is everything: This year, brands and individuals who are brands learned the hard way that the glaring, harsh lights of social media will find a way to highlight whatever blemishes or faults you are trying to hide or make insignificant. I’ve often said that brands don’t necessarily have a social media problem, they have an HR or PR problem. In other words, make sure your house is clean before you open it to strangers and criticism. For brands, memes or #AMA (ask me anything on Reddit) or hashtag-branded chat on Twitter can go horrendously awry if your brand is under scrutiny for any unethical or questionable behaviour. Or in the case of DiGiorno Pizza, jumping on a hashtag to seem trendy *before* learning why it’s trending can be a harsh lesson in context.
Here are some of the more cringeworthy ones:
#IceBucketChallenge: “How can we go viral?” This a question every agency gets asked by a client. And the plain truth is, the viewer is in charge of what goes viral. The ice bucket challenge raised an incredible amount of money for the ALS Society of Canada (and the US chapter as well.) What did this challenge have that made it go the distance? MoneySense Magazine reached out to our Susie Erjavec Parker about the virality of this challenge and she noted 3 key elements that helped propel this challenge into fundraising history: 1. it appealed to our desire to help, 2. the video component made it visual and easy to share, and lastly, 3. it added competition into the mix. In the end, more than $16 million dollars were raised in Canada and millions of people who had never heard of ALS were inadvertently educated about this deadly disease, and hopefully we are closer to a cure than ever before.
Honourable #Winnipeg mention goes to #Wpg14: This was the first civic election where social media finally played a measurable role. From tweets to Facebook posts, it seems everyone had something to say about the candidates, the state of the city left by the outgoing mayor, and of course, those social media buzzwords of authenticity and transparency. For those who were using social media before the election it was a natural extension for the campaign. While there was much discussion happening seemingly 24/7 on social media, there was no shortage of in-person events where any Winnipegger could meet and discuss issues with the candidates running for council and mayor (debates organized by the Winnipeg Chamber, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, and of course #ElectionFest by Metro Winnipeg). If anything, many were saying they were “electioned-out” by voting day. And even though Brian Bowman was using social media prior to the campaign, it was hard to ignore that many people (especially those of voting age) don’t use social media or are as immersed in digital and online. How were the youth going to turn the tide and use social media to get the message out that change was needed? It might not have been a tweet that did her in, but a video of mayoral candidate Judy Wasylycia-Leis trying to squirm her way out of a budget and policy answer left a sour taste in many mouths and quickly called her competence into question. The video (by the Winnipeg Sun) quickly went viral on Facebook and Twitter and surely helped sway some undecided voters. (As of today, the video has almost 30K views and is the fourth most searched term for Judy on Google). On the other hand, newcomer Robert Falcon Oulette came out of nowhere to win the hearts and trust of voters looking for an alternative to the old left. The municipal election became his launch pad for further political aspirations.
The passion of those talking, contributing, and educating each other on #Wpg14 was enough to garner a spot on Ace Burpee’s ‘Top 100 Most Fascinating Manitobans of 2014’ in Metro Winnipeg.
If social media has taught us anything in 2014 it’s that every voice matters, there is power in using your voice for social justice, and that each of us has the ability to contribute to a story, to history.