With the explosion of social media providing unlimited opportunities for everyday people to express themselves and unite over a cause, it’s never been a better time to change the world.
“I am stunned by the amount of change we have seen in the past 10 years,” Madison Alder Maurice Cheeks told an overflow Social Media Breakfast Madison crowd Wednesday at an event hosted by the Mass Mutual Financial Group. “The ways we communicate, share information, experience news, relate to one another, all that was impossible 10 years ago.”
Cheeks, who is Director of the Wisconsin Innovation Network, said “the ability to use social media to impact our communities is phenomenal.”
He cited an example in his work as a Madison alder:
In 2014, he recounted, a road construction project in the Allied Drive area along Verona Road in Madison made it very difficult for his constituents to access their polling place. Despite repeated calls to appropriate governmental offices, he and his constituents were unable to get any sufficient response.
Cheeks then took matters into his own hands, literally, by using his smart phone, Hyperlapse and iMovie to record and edit a video clearly illustrating the barriers that voters in this neighborhood would face while walking to their polling place.
He posted the video to his Facebook account and, within hours, the local newspaper picked it up and wrote a story. Constituents and sympathizers started reposting it across their networks, and within 24 hours he got a call from the Democratic Party telling him they had “a room full of lawyers” ready to take on his cause. Sure enough, then he got a call from the Department of Transportation, “and all of a sudden this construction gets done!”
“I am an elected official,” Cheeks said, and despite days of effort, “I couldn’t get this done over the phone.” But he got it done and got it done quickly, he said, “through the power of social media.”
He cited similar stories, from constituents using social media to complain in unison about an overnight construction project that was keeping them awake to the case of a woman who scaled the flagpole in Charleston to take down the Confederate flag, spurred on and legitimized by an outpouring of social media support.
“People are being empowered to act courageously because of social media, and then their behavior is rewarded by social media,” he said.
He also cited the Dead Raccoon story in Toronto, in which a resident upset that the city had not removed a dead raccoon from the street after an extended period of time took a picture of it and posted it on social media. Pretty soon someone placed a rose on the raccoon and posted that picture, and that led to people adding framed pictures, candles, love letters and eulogies, as the dead raccoon became an Internet sensation. All of which led to the city removing the raccoon.
“There’s a negative situation in the city, and the community erupts to get things done,” Cheeks said. “The community demonstrated its character online.”
Social Media is the new way that people communicate, connect, build trust and then make important decisions about their lives, he said. And the most important part of that sentence is to “communicate, connect, and build trust.” Doing that effectively, he said, is your key to online success.
“Otherwise you’re only trying to influence important decisions people make about their lives, and that’s not going to work.”
Social media, Cheeks said, is shaping our community locally and globally by increasing accountability and highlighting our humanity.
In sum, he said, “Social media is empowering us to change the world.”
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, website developer, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org.
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