Social Media Revolutions
Newsweek called him, “The Facebook Freedom Fighter” while others call him a hero or warrior, Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Google executive, is neither. He is simply one of the hundreds of thousands of activists, who before the social media boom, spoke out against the oppressive regime they lived under, but this time social media (Twitter, Facebook etc.) was the weapon of choice.
It started in December, in Tunisia, a peaceful country where protesting is banned, by a fruit vendor named Mohammed Bouzizi who was tired of the humiliation, government corruption and struggling to make ends meet to support his family. As a form of protest, he set himself on fire in front of a government building. He died on January 4th from his injuries. At that moment the people of Tunisia took to the streets. For the first time in a long time, change has come to North Africa and the Middle East and the world watching, hearing and seeing it unfold in real time.
Social media is changing the way we communicate fast than ever. No longer is it the lame tool to Tweet about what you ate last night or how drunk you were at a party (Remember MySpace? Who, you might ask? Yeah, exactly! )
In the last three months, the world has witnessed the true magnitude of the influence social media has developed into and how the scale of it can spread ideas in real time. In the United States, social media played a major role in Barak Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Enhanced communication continues to present challenges politically and socially by mobilizing whole populations at the click of a mouse.
Social media builds communities across the globe from Tokyo to Dubai to San Francisco.
So what does Google have to do with Egypt’s uprising? From a social media / business perspective if you represent the company, well, most of it. It was the key ingredient to mobilizing protestors. When the internet was shut down, Google circumvented the block by creating a telephone number Egyptians could call and verbalize a message to be Tweeted.
An employee’s extracurricular activity, like Wael Ghonims’, can put the companies’ relationship with the host country in jeopardy, potentially smear diplomat relationships or possibly get kicked out of a country and Wael Ghomin and others like him, can be a liability to the business. Of course Eric Schmidt is proud, but he should be concerned as well.
Companies that are aching to get into new markets will need to put their best face forward at all times. Companies don’t need to be the “new pet”of a dictator, but they must follow the rules. Not all countries want democracy and that should be respected, especially if you want to do business there.
We’ve seen how Google is unable to follow rules (China fiasco and wining to the Secretary of State for help); it doesn’t look good nor is it good business.
However with that said, let’s see what happens in Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Kuwait, Djibouti, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia… just to name a few. With fingers crossed, perhaps that it will spread to North Korea.
Written by Serenity Siya Mlay