(Pic by Ravindra Dharmathilake)

Social media is an easy and quick way to share information, photographs and videos online. In fact, many people are now turning to social media and newspapers, television and radio, which are known as old media, are no longer the first choice when seeking information or latest news.

During the past few years, Sri Lanka has seen the formation of a social media community, and although this community isn’t formally identified, they can be seen at social media events and campaigns, targeting social media users. It is however, rare to see a gathering of members of this community in a more formal setting.

A ‘social media activists’ session’ was organized by Ogilvy and Mather on May 22 at Phoenix O&M. The session was conducted by Social@Ogilvy Global Managing Director Thomas Crampton, who had a vast knowledge of social media and spoke in detail about the usage of social media.

The session was attended by media persons and mainly, individuals who were not only active on social media, but who also used social media for various social good causes. Thus, people who either initiated or played a role in social media campaigns like #SaveWilpattu and blood donations were able to share their opinions and methods of initiating and spreading word about the campaigns.

Tweeps could add their blood group, for instance, #BloodAPlka, in their bio, and thus a search of the relevant hashtag could direct one to tweeps willing to donate blood. This is a great example of how social media can be used to simplify an otherwise time consuming procedure

One of the participants, Gihan Fernando, spoke about how Twitter is used to simplify the process of donating blood and finding donors. He explained how Twitter users or tweeps could add their blood group, for instance, #BloodAPlka, in their bio and thus a search of the relevant hashtag could direct one to tweeps willing to donate blood. This is a great example of how social media can be used to simplify an otherwise time consuming procedure.

The session also focused on the aim or ultimate goal of online campaigns. By using the Kony 2012 video which gained immense popularity, Crampton explained that it was not enough to publish an attractive post. The audience the post gathers should also be shown how to implement what the campaigns target. For instance, the amu miris challenge that was based on the ALS ice bucket challenge was a success because it spread awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease of unknown etiology (CKDu), but also gave the audience directions about what they could do; accept the amu miris challenge or make a donation.

Your audience often determines the reach of your posts and social media users often engage in conversations and discussions in order to increase their following on social media. However, when it comes to one’s followings, there is an issue of quantity versus quality. Prasad Perera, a participant of the session, mentioned how it is more important to have a rich audience than a large number of followers.

This is important to remember as many often forget that the number of followers is not an accurate representation of how many people would see your post without a single share from other people. During a time when bots and fake accounts are in abundance, social media users should look for the quality of their following and not only quantity.
The topic of ‘traditional media’ or old media versus social media was also discussed at length and Crampton’s experience as a reporter came in handy for this segment of the session. Prior to joining Ogilvy, Thomas Crampton worked for 18 years as a globetrotting correspondent for International Herald Tribune and The New York Times and has reported on Thailand, Hong Kong, Sudan and Sri Lanka. He also launched the International Herald Tribune’s first online blog while he was working there.

Thomas Crampton, at his current position, oversees a team of 800 social media specialists in 40 territories. Social@Ogilvyhelps companies understand, strategize and execute within social media. Crampton’s experience in the field and knowledge of social media allowed the session, which lasted less than two hours, to cover a wide range of topics.

One of the most important features of the session was that it was quite truly a discussion between the participants. and thus allowed the sharing of opinions and knowledge, instead of being a lecture which may have covered more topics, but wouldn’t have given the participants the opportunity to discuss their work on social media.