The Age of Social Media: Can Facebook Set Us Free?

Facebook might not be thrilled in claiming responsibility or heroism for Egypt’s freedom. In fact, it’s quietly trying to stay under the radar so it can likely eventually expand into countries like China.

Nonetheless, it’s actually quite mind-blowing that Facebook served as a catalyst for the people of Egypt to join together in a fight for democracy.

We should still move forward with caution, though, even as we marvel and delight in what has happened. Mass connectivity has its advantages and its consequences.

As corporations, we have an obligation to transparency and to not skew messages for our benefit. We’ve seen what happens in the past with mixed messages and the reputation management crisis that ensues. I’m sure we can all remember the crisis communications problem BP had with its spokespeople, Tony Hayward and Carl-Henric Svanberg.

When you think about it, Facebook itself is in the process of crisis communications and controlling its message to curtail being the hero for Egypt.

Present-Day Communications: Who Controls the Message?

Over time, we have learned that with all the new means of communications, people have a hard time deciphering truth from fallacy.

The regulations and standards are waning, the gatekeepers no longer exist. So that puts the responsibility on us – the communicators.

On the same note, while governments used to be able to control the news and communications in their countries, those walls are coming down.

Governments no longer have full control of the message. They can’t control satellite signals; they can’t control communications from the ground as events are happening.

Social Media and Worldwide Communications
When will government start using social media for mass communication?

The same goes for corporations; while you can try to control the brand message, with tools like social media, it becomes harder and harder.

But, the goal should not be to try and control what people say about your business. The goal should be to use social media to have a conversation with your audience.

Gone are the days of one-way communication, when mass distribution of messages came flying at you without a chance to respond.

Social media has given us a way to create two-way conversation between companies, governments and the people (even when the government is not an active participant like Egypt).

So, it’s plus 20 points for social media for being used in a very productive, positive way.

Social Media and the Future: Is It All Good?

Let’s keep in mind that just as there are people who will always want to use social media for good, bad people will eventually get good at social media to push their own agendas.

We should all stop and ponder this for a moment. Would you put it past a government or corporation to use social media to affect or control the masses?

Social media is an added channel to inundate the masses with information about your brand, so as businesses, we have a responsibility to communicate carefully.

On a side note, Glenn Beck recently decided to boycott Google because of the power it has and its perceived involvement in the Egypt revolution. I agree with the author’s suggestive conclusion in the post that Beck’s opinion is less of a boycott and more of a scheme to get people to write about it online and therefore, rank well in Google News.

Yes, a search engine like Google has tremendous influence on the masses. But, Google’s motto has always been “Do no evil,” because it attempts to understand the impact it has on the world and its responsibility to it.

We’ve seen what happens when technology falls into the wrong hands — hackers get into sites and leave messages of propaganda behind; hate groups manage to find a webmaster to dispel atrocious messages across the Web and coordinate events.

Many of us in the industry are either part of or contributed to the social media phenomena that lead to the liberation of so many people in Egypt (peacefully, I might add).

So, our own professional knowledge of social media’s impact obliges us to begin thinking of solutions to the problem of what will happen when social media falls into the wrong hands, before it begins.

Social media as a new form of communication is something we’re all trying to understand on a deeper level and what it means to the way we receive and distribute information worldwide.

As businesses, it’s our duty to communicate carefully, to listen when we’re being talked to and to use social media as a way to connect with our audience, not control it.

About the Author

Chris Hart is director of eastern region operations for Bruce Clay, Inc. You can contact him via twitter @Chris_Hart.

See Chris's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (11)
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11 Replies to “The Age of Social Media: Can Facebook Set Us Free?”

I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else!

Good point in there. Social media is a wide-variety of information. It’s up to us to know what’s happening to our world and be responsible about the information that we search in google, post in facebook, etc.

Hi Aussiewebmaster and Brian,
Reading your posts made me think of this quote…

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

-Mark Twain

Let’s hope social media makes the truth as fast as Jamaican sprinter Usain St. Leo Bolt.

Good points Chris. It will be interesting to see how social media evolves if/when governments and big corporations fully embrace it. Unfortunately, I think it will likely be used as a tool to manipulate rather than converse…at least for the foreseeable future.

There is still a large majority of people in the world who aren’t on Facebook or other social sites. In the US, with baby boomers being a large percentage of the population, I think it may be a while before there is even a majority here. Obviously it will filter through to news channels and programs such as Glenn Beck but the message getting out may not be what was really intended. It will be a tough game to play and we will likely see some major growing pains as more entities embrace it. I doubt anything could have been done by the Egyptian government to counter what went on. On the other hand, BP could have handled their problem a lot better.

Who knows…by the time the population is at a point where it could be fully embraced, Facebook, Twitter, and Google may all be gone and the evolution of the web may have taken a turn we can’t yet predict. No matter what happens, it’s definitely a different world than it was even 5 years ago and we will likely see a lot more Egypt style uprisings.

Hopefully that makes sense :)


The Medium is The Message and unfortunately too many peole and companies do not understand the medium.

We are at that Global Village stage – but there are also physical limitations – the message goes global and support can be given but in the case of the recent social upheaval in the Middle East we are seeing the use of the medium to solidify ground forces – to show the people are not alone both online and in the battles. When dealing with strong opposition it helps to have a tweet that says hey we are meeting here – you don’t walk out not knowing which may have been cause for previous actions not to take hold as quickly and in such mass.

The search engines and social platforms are just providing a communication method – the rest is done by the people who should be praised for their bravery.

This was such a GREAT read, Chris! Very well-thought out and intelligent analysis. You hit the nail right on the head in regard to your last statement. I couldn’t agree more.

I shared this article on my Facebook fan page:

Thanks for posting!


Hey Christopher,
Thank you for the comment and for sharing with your friends; I made the check payable to “LOL.”

I think you got the point here. Social media can be great for both people/users as well as governments/companies, and at any moment, both sides can be and are both message-maker and message receiver …that is the power. And there is nothing wrong with a healthy pause to always verify sources and the legitimacy of the message.


“Yes, a search engine like Google has tremendous influence on the masses. But, Google’s motto has always been “Do no evil,” because it attempts to understand the impact it has on the world and its responsibility to it.”

That statement is a bit naive, dont you think?

Hi Bob,
I see your point, and in a vacuum of all things being equal, I hope you can see my point. Really wasn’t looking to analyze the morals and ethics of Google or its “Do no evil” motto. Notice I did say “attempts to understand the impact it has on the world … .” We all know that topics can be debated from numerous and differing sides. That paragraph was a mere follow-up to the Glenn Beck controversy. I think the more important point was that I thought Beck was using this Google debate to rank in Google, not because he believed it to be true.

We’ve seen what happens when technology falls into the wrong hands — hackers get into sites and leave messages of propaganda behind; hate groups manage to find a webmaster to dispel atrocious messages across the Web and coordinate events. (crash Visa/MasterCard/Amex payment systems)..

hmmm… Wikileaks?

Hey Steve,
Yes, WikiLeaks did post a lot of information about several items, the financial info you listed and U.S. government/military items. While I support the spirit of being a “Whistle Blower,” in general, I also feel that some discretion should have/may have been added to limit/protect any from additional collateral damage. If they wanted to help people, they could have been more careful with the delivery of the information, so the issue was brought to light and not in a way that continued to expose any innocent people affected by those issues.


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