For the last five years, marketing has been a huge component of my job. I have learned how to manipulate emotions with colors, to drive action with compelling words and spin a story in my favor.
Now, in marketing classes they don’t call it manipulation and we don’t admit to being spin doctors, but that is basically what we do.
We sell a story in pictures and words. We evoke feelings and compel you to choose sides.
When I began my training, social media was one tool in the marketer’s arsenal, but it certainly wasn’t everything. I say this in past tense because social media is quickly becoming the “go-to place” to spark a story and drive discussion, action and outrage.
I first noticed this new phase of propaganda as the situation in Gaza began heating up. Not only are Palestinians aggressive on the ground, they are increasingly aggressive on social media. Twitter is buzzing and facebook is packed with images of all the horrors those nasty Israelites committed against the poor Palestinian citizens. Palestinians are seeking the approval and support of the world through simple marketing tactics. I spotted their intentions right away.
Some images are outrageous and devastating. They might have hit their mark with some, until real marketing professionals began to spot photoshopping errors in many of these images and diligently exposed the facts. In truth, many of the atrocities pictured via social media showed an entirely different place and time. Several images actually reflected wounded Israelites not the Palestinians, as claimed in the propaganda tweets.
The funniest oops, by far, is the video of “dead” Palestinian bodies under sheets. These lifeless bodies wiggle when they don’t know the camera is rolling. Strange, I’ve never seen a lifeless body do that.
However, by that time, most people had already chosen sides because social media works fast.
I watched this new fad grow far beyond my expectations as the situation in Ferguson took the scene. A story that likely had little (if anything) to do with racism exploded, quickly making international headlines. How did it happen so fast? Social media taps emotion, it bypasses logic and analysis, and demands an immediate response. When your supporters are socially savvy and riled up (as are Michael Brown’s) you can quickly get twitter, facebook and instagram going wild with support. Everyone has something to say and they are so busy talking (or responding to the talk) that they fail to slow down and wait on the facts.
We all have personal stories, regardless of color. I’ve met officers who were true heroes and officers who should be behind bars. Often, the amount of personal experiences (on one end or the other) determine our response, rather than a careful examination of the facts of a particular case. A demand for an immediate personal opinion causes assumptions to burst out of our fingertips in texts and tweets.
A Water Bucket
With social media infected by such negativity, we all became quickly drawn to the positive viral efforts of the ALS Ice Water Bucket Challenge. In no time, our facebook feeds became packed by friends and family members dumping water buckets of ice water over their heads and making shivering demands that three selected individuals follow suit and pay up to this growing charity.
Again, many participants jumping on the bandwagon know very little about this charity (or even the disease itself). They are following, like lemmings, the trends of social media.
This is dangerous, so dangerous. Wisdom doesn’t come in fits of reaction but in knowing the back-story, the facts and principles behind a thing. Wisdom requires thought and sometimes, when we are really invested in making the right decisions, thought takes time.
Where is that investment anymore? When do we slow down and pour over the details? For example, did you know that this organization that many of my pro-life friends are paying up to funds research using embryonic stem cells? Don’t believe me? Visit their site and read this article.
Support for this viral marketing effort and a burst in funds to this charity could eventually contribute to a rise in abortions for research purposes (all of which you, dear friends, paid for).
I believe strongly that every life matters from the moment of conception. If tagged to participate in the ALS challenge, I will consider (and carefully pray about) donating to another charity that supports ALS research without the use of stem cells. The ALSA will not get my money.
More importantly, I won’t make my decision because everyone is doing it. I won’t decide blindly.
Frankly, I have a host of charities I would love to donate to and ALS is actually not even on that list.
Among my family and friends I know those with:
- Arnold Chiari Malformation
- Vitamin D Deficiency Rickets
- Myasthenia Gravis
- Multiple Sclerosis
Where is the viral support for these issues? Do you even know what they all are?
Friends: Do your homework. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing tactics. Make decisions for yourself.
Marketers: Use your power for good. Use the cunning colors the tricky fonts and a bit of spin if you must, but leave a window for the truth seeker to get the full story if they’re smart enough to look for it.
Be smart enough.