Margaret Thatcher knew her politics were divisive but I can't imagine that even she would have been aware that her death would have been such proof that the power to influence through social media is growing. The uproar likely to be caused by a government that has just introduced a raft of cuts spending an estimated £10 million on a state funeral has already seen the creation of the hashtag #nostatefuneral, but its the Facebook element of her death that is surprising even to those who already understand what social media is capable of.
What I am referring to is the 'Make 'ding dong the witch is dead' number 1 the week Thatcher dies' Facebook group. It might sound risible - and somewhat disturbing - that someone would set up a group that not only celebrates the death of an old woman, but does it fairly disrespectfully. However the point is that, thanks to the power of social media, the group's objectives may well be realised. The Facebook group in question was originally set up back in 2007 in anticipation of the Iron Lady's demise but has attracted considerably more attention in the last 72 hours as news of the death has spread around the world.
What is quite incredible is that the driving message of the group - to get the old Wizard Of Oz song to Number 1 in the UK charts - has been spread so far and wide thanks to the power of Facebook that it might actually be about to come true. Bizarre as it may seem, the song has already entered the official UK chart at Number 10 and has topped the polls in some other charts, including the iTunes chart in the Number 1 spot. Back in Thatcher's day this would simply not have been possible. There was neither such an enormous, all encompassing public forum as the internet, nor the advances in communication that would have allowed a mass movement of this kind to generate such a tangible result without any of the participants ever coming face to face. However, in the last two decades we have created a world in which we can essentially mass protest in a medium where we can't be disbursed- something that Maggie herself would no doubt have found rather troubling.
So, how does this translate out of the world of politics and/or trolling and/or celebrity obsession and patriotic feeling? Well, it shows how social media outlets such as Facebook can be used to communicate a message that might not be suitable for the widespread media (although the achievement this time is so considerable that all the major mass media channels are reporting on it too). It demonstrates how easily - and how fast - a message spreads along social media networks, even if it is not as shocking and newsworthy as this one, and it also shows the danger of putting something unconsidered out there into the ether and attaching your name to it - once you have tweeted, blogged, or posted then you no longer have any control. Whilst there may be many lessons to be learned from Maggie Thatcher's life, the one big lesson we might learn from her death is that there is real power in social media that we have yet to realise the extent of, which makes it a weapon that we need to both understand and get to grips with if we are to use it safely.
So if you'd like help to get to grips with social media, please contact us for details about our social media training sessions.