Social Media creates focal points- sometimes around topics that simply attract attention and sometimes around topics that provoke reactions. This past week we had both going on, in parallel. Plenty of attention was paid to the race to 1 million Twitter followers between Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk), CNN and Brittany Spears, as well as Oprah's impending first tweet. Aside from the potential benefits to charity, which became part of the "ante" as the contest continued, the rest was, well, Ho Hum. Update: While it doesn't really change my point of view, some interesting perspective on Ashton's venture into Social Media - from Harvard, no less.
What really captured my attention, as well as millions of others, was two parallel incidents that couldn't have been more opposite, yet shared a common thread - their exposure and the vocal reactions elicited via Social media.
Cheering for the Underdog
The first is Susan Boyle - if you haven't seen the video by now (and there are a number of versions, watched by millions), you're in the minority. Not only did this striking performance gather interest and online steam, it touched people in very personal ways. Anyone who has ever felt like the "underdog" in a given situation can immediately identify and feel a connection. My friend Tim Dempsey provided a poignant perspective on his blog yesterday:
For me, this one is a lesson in humility. Susan Boyle carried out a simple act of courage and faith notwithstanding her circumstances. From the opening note, she had utterly transformed the environment around her. Those who sneered were agape in wonder. Those who judged, reversed their verdicts. Those who were seated, stood, applauded, cheered
The Twitter Streamgraph for Susan Boyle also displays the activity and emotion in the ongoing conversations:
Everything we never wanted to know about Fast Food
The second topic is the Dominos pizza "booger" incident - the kind of thing we've all thought about in the back of our minds when we partake of fast-food, but never wanted to have confirmed. Where Susan Boyle clearly demonstrated something that evoked strong emotions - ranging from pride to guilt - this bunch of miscreants elicited a more singular emotion, disgust. The bigger story here is not about the stupidity of these few employees, but rather the incident-to-damage ratio - how a few people, in one of literally thousands of Dominos outlets, and a single video, can inflict serious damage on a multi-billion dollar brand. Aside from the circulation of the video and the conversations it spawned among consumers, social media circles conversed about the initial lack of response from Dominos, as reported in this Adweek article.
That response eventually did come, in the form of a video from Domino's President. While generally praised as a decent response, conversations on Twitter as of this morning show the damage continuing...
In short, this has been a very interesting week for Social media. Despite a number of "firsts" that attracted even more mainstream attention for Twitter and related Social Networks, what I found most interesting were the immediate, emotional, insightful and most-definitely viral, polarized reactions to two completely different incidents. Despite their vast differences, they shared a common thread- rather than simply passing them along as another "interesting" news story or a silly bandwagon to jump on, people began engaging in conversations that will likely have more lasting effect and outcome than @aplusk's 1 millionth follower.