I was speaking with our good friend Pete Hollier of SEO Wizardry the other day. We were talking about the earthquake which hit Christchurch last week. The big one, which measured 6.9 on the Richter Scale. Pete recently moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and has therefore been involved in the quake and its aftermath at a personal level.
He explained to me that most of Christchurch’s 600,000 people are now without the underground systems we all take so much for granted in suburban life these days: No running water, sewage systems, or electricity. I wondered how the people were coping with this. He explained that water was brought in by tankers; that they were cooking on fires, and that they had been told by the Minister of Health to dig a hole in the backyard to use as a toilet. It was a sad reminder of how life can be proceeding as it should one moment, and be disrupted in a jarring and shocking way the next.
Pete said that he had been trying to think of a way to help and had come up with the idea of a website to facilitate connecting contractors with people who needed them during the emergency. A way for someone who needed, say a plumber, to find one quickly. I thought that was a great idea and said so. But Pete wondered about “shysters” – the unpleasant types who would seek to take advantage of those in need. I suggested that the people who hired the contractor could write an open and honest review of their experience, and publish it on the website. And Pete said, “like using social media to rate them.”
And after we finished our conversation, I sat there thinking about the power of social media these days. If you saw our tweet of a little while ago, concerning the revolution in Egypt, you will know that we applauded its use in bringing about the peaceful change that the Egyptian people accomplished so inspiringly. And of course we have all been reading about how Twitter, Google and Facebook are enabling many of the countries in the Middle East to do the same thing. Social media today is indeed helping to fuel revolutions.
Which brings me back to Pete’s suggestion of using it to help rebuild Christchurch. It seems to me that social media technology is perhaps one of the most powerful levellers of all time. For it gives to the common man a voice as powerful as that of a dictator. Even the littlest of us can now shout loud enough, using social media, to be heard above the masses. Or stridently enough to break through even the most stringent forms of suppression.
If you have seen the movie, “The King’s Speech”, you may remember the line where Bertie tells Logue that he has a right to speak, a right to be heard, merely because he has a voice. And social media gives each of us the same voice as the next one in line. It is truly a democratising technology.
And it has the same power to elevate tiny companies high enough to be heard against their formidable and much larger competition.
Are you using it yet?
Bit-by-Bit #43 from Eric.