Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Power of Web 2.0

My Blog Action Day post from the ZENO Group blog, Acropolis:

Today is Blog Action Day, a day where thousands of bloggers worldwide will come together and write about poverty. We all know poverty is a big problem. Here in Santa Monica, for example, 277 people were considered homeless at the turn of the new year. 277 – That’s huge in comparison to Santa Monica’s relatively small size (pop: 87,212). While providing a real solution to poverty is critical, what inspires me is the way the event organizers are engaging the blogosphere in efforts to bring this pressing issue to the masses.

As we continue to evaluate the reach and effectiveness of non-traditional media outlets, many clients still put their faith in the traditional. We continually ask ourselves which is better – a small hit in The Wall Street Journal or a story in TechCrunch? Most would prefer The WSJ, largely because the reach is predictable and measurable, so blogger relations programs tend to be the first thing cut out of PR plans as budgets tighten. But another question to ask is, can bloggers act as a means to an end, instead of just an end in themselves? Last year’s Blogger Awareness Day proved YES, as the campaign was picked up in traditional outlets such as BBC, Reuters, FOX, Sydney Morning Herald, and Kathimerini Greece on an international scale – a reach far beyond expectations with relatively little financial investment. That’s the power of social media for you. And this year’s event, with 11,438 bloggers participating, is expected to generate a minimum of 12,437,788 impressions based on RSS numbers. By comparison, an article in USA Today would generate 2,284,219 impressions, but with nearly 13 million people reading about it on the Web, well, what traditional outlet wouldn’t want to tag along?

It is interesting to look at how social marketing has evolved throughout history, and how social media is feeding into this evolution. I can only think of a similar campaign that might have been initiated 10 years back – Smart PR person instigates Poverty Awareness day. Savvy PR staff organizes an event and writes a press release. Desperately-wanting-to-get-hired interns rigorously pitch the event to mainstream media outlets. Poverty Awareness Day garners international coverage and is a huge success. 700 more smart PR people catch on and do the same…

This campaign, however, is innovative, largely because it hasn’t been done before, and it has the potential to be more effective taking into account the discussion element (something traditional media lacks). Kudos to the organizers for taking an innovative approach to poverty; this truly showcases the power Web 2.0 has to reach the masses.

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