Kathy Klotz-Guest

Video Parody is The New Viral Form of Social Criticism

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm

For many angry at BP, video parody is the new form of social criticism. http://lnkd.in/hR6P_w

Certainly some parodies are better than others, but the point is that video and social media are enabling people to take their complaints to the masses. We saw this with United Airlines and Dave Carroll. When United failed to address Carroll’s concerns over baggage handling (which broke his guitar), Carroll took his complaint straight to video. And using humor rather than rancor, he was able to get his message heard virally – by United and the entire world. Rather than get angry, Carroll got funny and that got attention – for his complaint and his little band. Pretty smart and damn good marketing.

Video is a powerfully compelling medium and so is parody. While neither video nor using parody to fight back are new (in the late eighteenth century, anti-federalists used parody to fight the federalists’ push to create a centralized “American” government; too bad they didn’t have video!), the combination made possible by today’s social media tools has empowered citizens today in ways never before seen. While humor can be used for marketing by big companies, in the hands of the consumer today, it can be used as an incredibly effective tool for influence. And influence is correlated with revenues. We vote with our dollars, and today, we also vote in the court of public opinion through viral media. The tables have turned to a large degree because of trust – we trust people we know; we distrust big corporations such as BP and for good reason. The only way for companies to prepare for the influence inversion is to recognize that every company is a media company, as Tom Foremski and Don Bulmer maintain. So, too, is every consumer with a video camera a member of the citizen’s “media.”

Public discourse played out through social media requires a sincere public response. United, for example, chose to handle the issue “offline.” There is no offline once a complaint goes viral – public concern calls for a public response. If United wanted to use the opportunity to enhance its image, it would have 1) sincerely addressed the complaints (Carroll’s was not the only one); and 2) used humor in response to the “United Breaks Guitars” videos. This would have shown the world that it not only cares, but that it also has a sense of humor – and that is human face (and PR boost!) to show the world.

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