As a public relations professional, I have always been fascinated by the ultimate question: How can I change the behavior of my audience? This is the ultimate question, because it’s the one we all seek the answer to. It’s the reason we engage in public relations and marketing. We want people to do certain things, buy certain things, and feel certain ways about our organization and/or its products.
When I was completing my thesis in graduate school, my research question focused on whether discussions online would translate into offline activities. I used an open forum for staff at the University I was attending as the basis for my research, and the topic was the attacks of 9/11. I felt that if any topic could motivate offline action, that would be it. Unfortunately, after months of gathering and analyzing information, my conclusion was just a big fat maybe. As intense, emotional, and endlessly discussed as the topic was, I could establish no significant connection between the online discussion and offline behaviors.
We’ve come a long way in the past ten years. There is no doubt anymore that social media can influence behavior, I feel this is largely because we can now co-locate the online discussion with an opportunity to engage in the desired behavior. We can encourage participants to “like” us and to share our content, we can donate funds or buy products at the click of a button, we can link people directly to politicians we’d like to influence or causes we’d like to support. Nowhere is this ability to influence large groups of people more apparent than in this year’s Presidential Election. Check out the infographic below from Engine Yard and prepare to be amazed!
Courtesy of: Engine Yard