By Laura Bower, The Tombras Group. Original article run in Knoxville News Sentinel here.
Occupy Wall Street has captivated and frustrated us with its idiosyncratic and haphazard approach to protest. The movement began on September 17, 2011, with a demonstration in New York’s Financial District. A motley crew of disgruntled mostly Millennials gathered in Zuccotti Park and began an ongoing odyssey that has spread to parks in cities nationwide and across the globe.My intent is not to judge the movement per se, but to assess its use of social media to promote its message, or lack thereof.This leaderless movement has given voice to the mass discontent of many, as it claims to represent “the 99 percent,” or those of us who are not in the top 1 percent in income.However, multiple me-too demonstrators have glommed onto the movement to lift up environmental issues and other causes in addition to wealth disparity.
What’s interesting is that the whole Occupy phenomenon has been streaming live via Internet video. And people are watching — some 2 million viewing minutes and counting.Because of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, every nuance of Occupy Wall Street is being texted, tweeted, Facebooked and shared via YouTube and Livestream. Some argue that Millennials are narcissistic and self-absorbed, and with social media as their mode of communication, Occupy Wall Street (#OWS on Twitter) is the perfect marriage of technology and psychology.From a public relations perspective, the Occupy movement lacks the three archetypal elements of a good story: a victim, a villain and a hero. These archetypes are critical to effective crisis communications, according to conventional PR wisdom. Hence, they are critical to social media as well, because social media is public relations on steroids.
It’s digital storytelling via instantaneous, real-world, man-on-the-street, consumer-generated content. That’s why Occupy Wall Street is evidence of the democratization of media creation and media consumption.
Occupationalist.org is a newly created website that constantly updates Occupy Wall Street content from a variety of social media sources, including Tumblr, Twitter and Foursquare via a single page. There’s even a Knoxville-based Facebook page dedicated to aggregating information about the local Occupy movement. The “Occupy Wall Street (Knoxville)” page boasts more than 4,000 fans.
There’s no doubt that social media can be a catalyst for social change, as evidenced in Egypt’s Lotus Revolution and the fall of Libya’s Gadhafi regime, both of which relied heavily on swaying public sentiment via social media channels. In fact #jan25 became one of the most famous Twitter hashtags in Egypt’s history.
And the outpouring of support in the aftermath of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami is a heartwarming case study in the mobilization of humanity via social media. Google even created a web application called “Person Finder” to help families find each other during the disaster. Social media became a source of information, aid and comfort.
The infamous Portland pepper spray incident recently generated the Occupy movement’s most iconic photo to date, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The dramatic photo of a young woman getting a blast of pepper spray on her face during a mostly peaceful Occupy protest in Portland is destined to become an enduring image of the national movement,” said The Times. Both video clips and photos of the Portland incident quickly went viral.
Whether Occupy Wall Street is a spark that ignites a revolution or even an evolution remains to be seen. What we do know is that the world is watching. Literally.
Watch Laura discuss this topic on Knoxivi.com with 11 o’ Clock Rock’s Brent Thompson here.
Laura Bower was also featured on Knoxivi to talk about Occupy Wall Street and Social Media. Click here to view the video.