Social Media Week begins on September 19th in 12 host cities worldwide. Organizers released a list of the “Top 10 Social Media Events that Shook the World.” As you look over the list, you may agree with them, be surprised or baffled by the organizers’ choices.
These events, from the Arab Spring to Wikileaks to U.K. Riots, were all fundamentally shaped by the use of social media, and in many cases would have never happened without social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Unlike other conferences, Social Media Week is free to anyone, and those unable to attend in person can participate online in many of the more than 450 events around the world. In addition to analyzing social media’s impact, which will help you relate to their Top 10 List. Conference participants will discuss the upcoming trends and technologies that will revolutionize social media – and our society – in the months and years ahead.
In no particular order of impact, here are the “Top 10 Social Media Events that Shook the World.” I am curious if you agree with the list and view some of these events more important than others.
1. Arab Spring and the uprisings in the Middle East — The “Arab Spring” uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, have proven that social media can transform society and politics on a global scale. Throughout the past several months, social media has been used to organize protests, highlight injustices and government crackdowns, and sway public opinion. Whether democracy will flourish remains to be seen, but social media’s impact in the movement so far is indisputable.
2. Japanese earthquake and tsunami — Millions of people from around the world watched the aftermath of a 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan in real-time via social media. I even caught myself gapping at a YouTube video of ocean water engulfing a town. Tweets and videos from Japan were posted within minutes, and viewers across the globe witnessed what would have been impossible to document before the widespread use of social media and handheld devices.
3. Wikileaks scandal — Is Julian Assange a champion of transparency in democracy and freedom of speech? Or is he just a criminal? I am still trying to figure out this mess. Wikileaks continues to spur controversy, but the fact is Wikileaks would not have been possible without the rapid advances in digital and social media.
4. Charlie Sheen’s meltdown/use of Twitter — Charlie Sheen’s public meltdown spawned the hashtag “#winning,” which quickly became America’s favorite new catch phrase. Sheen subsequently amassed one million Twitter followers, faster than anyone else in history, and proved that our cultural obsession with celebrity is only growing now that we have more ways to interact online. But, the fame or crazy circumstance is short lived and has died down.
5. Anthony Weiner Twitter scandal — This was America’s first political scandal that unfolded – and then broke — over social media, putting a spotlight on the way social media tools are utilized both publicly and privately and will undoubtedly impact the way politicians communicate with their constituents and the public for years to come. All due respect: who cares?
6. Rebecca Black’s viral YouTube hit and subsequent backlash — How is celebrity defined in the age of social media? Does Black’s music video “Friday,” which racked up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube earlier this year, count as a ‘hit’? The answers are up for debate, but it’s a fact that the traditional business models used by the entertainment and music industries are being upended by advances in new technology.
7. Social media coverage of British royal wedding – I can agree with this one because the royal wedding stole the social media show with upwards of nearly one million related Tweets in the month leading up to the nuptials. In the days leading up to the wedding, this single event accounted for more than 70% of all social media mentions.
8. U.K. Riots — After three nights of rioting in London, politicians blamed the violence on text and instant messaging on mobile devices. British police broke into smart phones to thwart planned attacks on local establishments, and even considered blocking access to social networking sites altogether.
9. Hurricane Irene — Storm chasers didn’t need to leave their home to follow the path of Hurricane Irene, as it made its way up the East Coast in August, conjuring tweets on par with the traffic after the Japan earthquake.
10. Social Media IPOs — Successful startups like Pandora and LinkedIn have gone public and there is growing speculation Groupon, Xanga and Facebook will soon follow suit. “2011 has been a profoundly important year as platforms and technologies have become so ubiquitous that the conversation has shifted from what they are, to how they are being used,” said Toby Daniels, Founder and Executive Director of Social Media Week. I just hope the IPOs hold their own in the market and with an upswing report next year at the annual Social Media Week conference.