I can’t write about Social Media Marketing today. The inspiring, unstoppable stream of citizen media coming out of Iran is too inspiring and awful.
If you have the heart and stomach to watch it, this video of the death of a girl now popularly known as “Neda” — Farsi for the call — will not only haunt you forever, but will also tell you all you need to know about how the world is changing.
The filters are off. The collective is self-aware. The masses are the media.
The “cluetrain” was too short-sighted a vision. It was too focused on corporate marketers. That’s such an infinitesimal part of the real story. The real cluetrain has wings; it’s flying right off the rails.
We’ve been programmed to accept the reality of mainstream editorial decisions. As a society we have made decisions on matters of culture and war and breakfast cereal based on what “The Editors” have elected to show us. You won’t see Neda die — looking straight at you — on CNN.
While we have to thank the Powers That Be at YouTube for deciding to let Iran’s citizen footage stay online for their “documentary value,” I’d suggest that this unexpurgated content would still have found its way to us. I also think that the technical tricks that the rebellious Iranians are now popularizing could further erode censorship and “editorial policies” across all societies.
In order to quell one riot, the police may use water cannons, shotguns, batons. But how do you stop a countrywide riot? When everyone in Iran sees a gang of police back down and run from a mob of protestors, why would anyone in Iran ever run way again?
In a world in which Social Media exists, autocrats will need to resort to increasingly savage tactics to maintain order — knowing full well that these moves will be documented and surreptitiously broadcast after-the-fact: which in turn will threaten their legitimacy in the eyes of both their own citizens and the global community. Social Media creates a (virtuous? viscious?) cycle: unstoppable transparency in an authoritarian society must lead to unconscionable cruelty, which must lead to revolution, which will lead to renewal.
The people are being reintroduced to each other, across oceans and cultures. The cracks are showing. We are recognizing our universality. We are no longer so willing to be duped by those in power.
It’s true in Social Media Marketing. It’s true in Iran.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to suggest that “Social Media is just one of many tools in the toolbox” again. While that’s a defensible statement to a marketer maybe, ultimately Social Media as a cultural force is, truly, bigger than all that.
Posted on: June 22, 2009 at 10:41 am By Todd Defren