At a time when Manila was considered the texting capital of the world, Estrada blamed “the text-messaging generation” for his downfall. During that fateful week, text messaging in the Philippines more than doubled to 70 million messages per day.
New media, however, is not the cause; it is the tool that mobilizes support for the cause. Social media exponentially magnifies the power of word-of-mouth, rapidly generating the critical mass of popular support that is required to instigate an uprising. While it is relatively easy for marketers and governments to exercise control over conventional media, it is neither practical nor feasible to quell the hundreds of thousands of voices on the net.
The unidirectional nature of conventional media allows for tight controls. On TV or radio, while people may choose to switch from one channel or station to another, the content remains centrally controlled.
In contrast, the internet is fluid and decentralized. People go there to watch videos, listen to music, or read about something of interest to them. They may do so whenever and wherever they choose to, and it usually does not cost them anything other than their time.
It is multidirectional. A wide range of web platforms and technologies enable ordinary people to source information from one another. They create their own content and share it with others, a phenomenon popularly known as user-generated content (UGC) or social media.
Social media — any kind of text, audio, image or video content created by consumers and uploaded on a variety of online media platforms (Exhibit 12.1) — has rapidly grown to become the most pervasive activity on the net. All over the world consumers are communicating online on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and several other social networks and blogs. Facebook, which leads the pack, crossed the 2 billion monthly active user milestone in mid-2017.
Social media thrives on engagement between participants. Take Coca-Cola for instance; based on company estimates in 2011, over 80% of Coca-Cola content viewed on YouTube was generated by consumers. The Coca-Cola fan page was started not by the corporation, but by two Coca-Cola enthusiasts from Los Angeles. It is the place where Coca-Cola fans come together and engage; and though The Coca-Cola Company collaborates with the two enthusiasts to maintain the site, the page thrives on the engagement of fans.
The implications for marketing and advertising are profound. The new media marks a shift in power from the corporate to the consumer. While companies stand to lose control, they gain a movement, one that is both an opportunity and a threat. The persuasive power of word-of-mouth outweighs that of advertising, and social media amplifies it. An appealing message, pertaining to a product, can become contagious and spread like a virus — possibly yielding extraordinary gains or possibly causing irreparable damage.