How we react to media highlights our assumptions about what media does. We focused on the Soviet Union’s underlying belief that propaganda radio would influence how people act. A comparison can be drawn to today’s obsession with social media. What major brand (or government!) DOESN’T have a facebook page, a twitter feed, and (if they have a physical location) a foursquare presence?
Everyone from BMW to the EPA is convinced that in order to stay competitive they need to tweet to the nation, by update their facebook pages, and maybe make a really cool facebook pin/bumpersticker/hat that you can post on your friends’ walls or ask for help in earning (Imagine: “Annie’s almost completed her income tax but is looking for a W2!”)
Technology has changed the power structures behind communication. Corporations, countries, individuals all must be aware of (and active in regulating) their online image. Net-neutrality and other policy-level issues aside, communities are being created and movements are being formed- communities which are being perceived as powerful. We could be all cool and worldly and talk about Zapatistas. OR, we could be a bit corny and talk about Mommy Bloggers.
One of Forbes 2009 Top 50 Most Influential Women in Media was Heather Armstrong, a mommy blogger who, after saving up for a washing machine which proceeded to break down, tweeted about her problems. With over a million followers on twitter, Armstrong was perceived as an important member of an online community and ended up with responses and public apologies from top Maytag and Sears management. (She also got several washers, watch her here or read the Forbes article. )
Whirlpool, Bosht and other multinationals might believe that online figureheads like Armstrong are powerful enough to merit attention. We might question that belief, however. According to Forbes, neither Maytag nor its parent company Whirlpool showed any stock price reaction to the incident.