Mister Splashy Pants, a whale named after Greenpeace held a naming competition in 2007 isn’t really news, but Alexis Ohanian, who is a founder of Reddit tells a great story at TED (in 3 minutes no less!) of how social media created a meme, took Greenpeace by surprise, won the competition, Greenpeace ceded control and in the end saved whales, literally.
The example shows one way for establish organizations to work with social media: Loosen up and go with the flow. Make the most of the situation and the attention. You need to give something up to gain people’s trust and participation. This is something that corporations and non-profits alike are mortally afraid to do.
Organizations are afraid of losing control over their message. But what is brand identity anyway? Isn’t it something that forms in the minds of the customers and participants? And it’s hard to control what people think of you. Individuals are constantly making adjustments to accommodate, influence or reject the way they are perceived by others. But it’s an ongoing relationship, not one-way. The more social we get in the use of internet technologies, the more relationship-oriented things will be.
So it’s not ok to find new ways to do old things, like one-way communication. Embrace participation. Lose some control. It’s ok. If a serious organization like Greenpeace can have some fun, other can too.
See also: Wikipedia entry
Co-posted on uxforgood.org