The True Power of Social Media

Great post by Kristi Faulkner, president of Womenkind, an integrated marketing communications company in New York in She tells the story of a message that appeared on Twitter April 8: “Heather and Mike need your help.”

Their daughter, Madeline, passed away from respiratory syncytial virus, complicated by her premature birth just 17 months earlier. The entire tragedy played out, in real time, on Twitter.

It began with a simple “Maddie has a cough” on April 5. It was an innocuous tweet squeezed between “Seth Rogen, come here” and “Those are sweet bangs … I once had bangs.” For the next two days, thousands of concerned moms were re-tweeting Heather’s updates from the hospital and finally the sad news of Maddie’s death.

Let there be no more doubt that the on-line community is, in fact, a community in the truest, human sense. Social media is the uber-gathering space — better than a beauty shop, supermarket, diner, church, pub, firehouse, school, and town square rolled into one. The scale of Facebook or Twitter is global. Yet, when a human story touches our hearts, we react as intently as we would to a crisis in our own neighborhood.

Heather Spohr’s 3,500 Twitter followers instantly activated an outpouring of support from around the world. Almost 700 people expressed condolences on her blog. More than 400 bloggers paid tribute to Maddie on their own sites, and thousands of people donated as little as a dollar towards funeral expenses through a PayPal account set up by a sympathetic follower. In just two days, more than $30,000 was donated to the March of Dimes in honor of Maddie, and 35 teams were formed to walk in the charity’s annual drives. Most of these people never even met little Maddie Spohr.

As marketers, we seek to quantify the power and penetration of nascent social platforms. What percentage of the target audience is engaged in Twitter? How many women 34-55 are on Facebook? How many eyeballs does this blog get compared to that one? And for heaven sakes, what’s our ROI?

Social media has turned a faceless audience back into individuals, and restored the emotional connectedness of which one-way media robbed us. It doesn’t feel odd to think of our Twitter followers as neighbors. We know them, we see them around. Sometimes we chat, sometimes not. But when a girlfriend is in need, we are there. In mass.

Marketers take note: Emotion sells. Especially to women.



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