We have all heard that social media is reshaping how companies engage with their customers, how politicians interact with constituents, and on the global stage how even countries and governments are reimagined. And while “social media” can conjure up images of people protesting regimes in the streets, more often than not it can be likened to a highly coordinated game of telephone.
At the 30,000 foot-level it can be hard to fully appreciate just how personal social media can be, but recently our industry engaged in a social media campaign that reinforced its very individual nature. Last year, IBWA launched a video, “Student Activism: 101,” that sought to engage college student in the discussion about the availability of bottled water on campuses. In less than one month, it was the most-watched IBWA video ever and gained wide-ranging social media attention. Today, it still stands at number two.
While other IBWA videos tend to be educational and light in tone, this video takes a more direct approach in how it frames the issue of banning bottled water on college campuses. As expected, anti-bottled water folks were not particularly happy. What did surprise us were the rapidity with which the video went viral and the accompanying intensity of debate.
On Facebook and Twitter student activists passionately debated the video, and the issue of bottled water at large. They also left reams of comments on IBWA’s YouTube page. Examining the video’s analytics helps us understand how “Student Activism: 101” moved so quickly through social media channels. It turns out that two websites, NPR’s food blog, “The Salt,” and Grist.org, accounted for nearly 60 percent of the overall coverage. Their re-posting of and comments on the video provided both legitimacy and exposure to key audiences. As a result of these de facto “endorsements,” several university groups posted the video on their official Facebook pages, leading individual students to also post it – often encouraging their friends to view the view the video.
In some cases our video was applauded and in others, vilified; but it was viewed. While we may disagree with some of their claims, these students take the issue of bottled water very seriously and we take the students seriously too. By analyzing the language used, arguments given, and accusations raised through social media channels, we now better understand some of the core drivers guiding student engagement when it comes to this important issue.