There are as many ways to become influential through leveraging the reach and relationships inherent in Internet based platforms. We’ve all heard the stories: The blogger with 15 million views on a blog post and 100,000 fans; or the YouTube sensation with 360 million downloads of video based content over a year.
Peacebuilders have often been reluctant to step outside the professional shadows. Influenced by the law and the legal background that much of Western peacemaking relies upon, have instead opted for slipping a business card into a potential client’s hand. Or even relying on the referral to drive traffic to their door.
With new communication platforms that have arisen over the last few years, the ability to be known (in both positive and negative ways) has increased exponentially. However, before peacebuilders seek to exploit platforms (as I addressed last month here) they first need to examine their motives and ask a basic, philosophical question:
Should a peacebuilder (no matter their educational credentials and background) have influence and be recognized for being influential, by market forces?
This is a two-part question floating around the edges of marketing for peacebuilders. In light of the presence of digital platforms, there are three parts to consider when thinking about peacebuilder influence and surrounding market forces:
Endorsements – Human beings are very sophisticated at manipulating facts to “fit” a particular vision of the world. And on social media platforms, with their reliance on reaction, rather than response, to drive attention and traffic, manipulation of reality seems to run rampant. Endorsements of a brand, a celebrity, a point of view or even a political or religious position, on a social media platform, can permanently derail an opportunity for peace. Or at least negotiation. The “a retweet is not an endorsement” phraseology that appears in many journalists’ Twitter bios is something that should be considered by the savvy peacebuilder.
Profile – Having a profile, any kind of profile, while constructing a digital presence can be a difficult proposition. This fact goes beyond just having a social media presence with headers and updated photos. It covers the evidence a series of blogs, posts, emails and likes can create throughout the Internet. The social communication mechanism of the Internet is a platform where the information on it never dies, even though the peacebuilder will.
Payment – Does taking payment for having an opinion (and expressing it) about a product or service constitute an endorsement of everything that the payee does? This is a sticky issue, because there are very few content monetization paths. Creating content (good, high quality content) is time consuming and arduous. The Industrial Revolution equation that time + arduousness = payment still manifests in peacebuilders’ marketing efforts. The challenge for peacebuilders, is to determine the ROI (return on investment) from marketing that doesn’t scale (i.e. creating a blog post, shooting a promo video, or managing a social platform).
Peacebuilders must consider the areas of payment, profile and endorsement before they seek to shape these forces, in an increasingly connected world, where trust is the greatest currency.
Questions or feedback about this? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me via Twitter @Sorrells79 or check out my Facebook Business page and leave a comment there, or message me on LinkedIn.
By Jesan Sorrell