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What does the Kyrgyz revolution say about social-media engagement?

Does a Twitter topic need to trend to have an impact? Is a topic less important if it has a deep resonance for a smaller group of people — instead of the other way around? If those seem like silly questions to you, think about the way the role of social media in the Kyrgyz revolution is being portrayed by many media outlets.

In the lead story of today’s SmartBrief on Social Media, Evgeny Morozov compares the Kyrgyz revolution with the Iranian revolts of last summer. He argues that because Kyrgyzstan is less important on the world stage, Western media is less interested in the drama unfolding there. “In short: why is there no Twitter revolution in Kyrgyzstan? Because there is no one to hype it up.” He also notes that the platform is being used differently than it was in Iran — less a tool of organization and more a broadcasting mechanism.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that Twitter isn’t an important of this story just because it doesn’t neatly parallel the events in Iran, notes Sarah Kendzior. “The tweets, blog posts, and news articles written by people in Kyrgyzstan — often with great emotion and care — are dismissed because they were written for people in Kyrgyzstan. But for whom, may I ask, are people in Kyrgyzstan supposed to be writing?” In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the whole world is watching The conversation is important to its intended target: the Kyrgyz people.

Now think about your own social-media efforts. Are you obsessed with getting on Twitter’s trending topics? Making it onto the front page of Digg? Becoming a YouTube sensation? Those are all perfectly worthy goals. But they’re not the only goals. If you’re reaching the people you need to reach — and more importantly, if you’re really affecting them, then its not as important if someone outside your target demographic hears about you or not.

When you start your own revolution, ask yourself, who are you doing this for? Is it just for the attention of strangers? Or are you trying to make a difference in your community? The answer to that question may dictate your entire strategy — and determine whether you ultimately regard your campaign as successful.

Does a social-media campaign always need mass awareness to be successful? What are some examples of campaigns that triumphed by creating deep engagement with a small population? Should campaigns decide at the outset of a campaign if they’re aiming for mass exposure or fan engagement?

Image credit, Jesus Cervantes, via Shutterstock

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