From reaching a larger audience to engaging with customers, social media really has become an invaluable tool for business. However, over the past few years social media has been used as a platform to shape world events.

Below we have listed a few examples. 

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Last summer, the ALS ice bucket challenge took the social media world by storm. The viral campaign, by the ALS Association which fights Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, saw millions of people tipping ice cold water over their heads in a bid to raise funds for the association. Participants filmed their challenge and shared their videos with friends and family on Facebook. As a result, the ALS Association received more than $115 million in donations!

Natural Disaster Responses

Over 8,000 people were killed in the recent earthquake in Nepal. The devastating effects have completely destroyed the country and left many without a home. In the immediate aftermath, social media sputtered with sporadic safety reports and concerns. Facebook activated its Safety Check feature giving quick safety status updates, but information was initially slow and Nepal’s political leadership largely quiet.

After two days or so, Facebook and Twitter exploded. Requests for help started inundating social media feeds. “300 people are stranded on the hill opposite last resort”, “4000 people in Kavre need tents and blankets”, ”Trapped people badly need food and tents in Sitapaila”. As a result, this vital information helped authorities to locate people and save lives.

Arab Spring and the uprisings in the Middle East

The “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, has proven that social media can be used to transform society and politics on a global scale. These uprisings used social media to organise protests, highlight injustices and government crackdowns, and sway public opinion at home and abroad. The effects spread to other nations, as even now, several nations in the Middle East find the status quo challenged by youths and social activists who use social media to rally others to their cause.

Affecting Elections around the World

Social media has significantly changed the way people talk about politics. President Obama’s election in 2008 and 2012 widely used social media to organise supporters and get-out-the-vote campaigns. The recent UK General Election was one of the most ‘social’ campaigns in history, with all party’s attempting to harness the power of Twitter and Facebook. In countries like Iran and Egypt, where political choice and speech are limited, organisers were able to use their influence to create exciting election results for their people. In an age of social media, it’s easier for people to organise action against governments that don’t listen to the will of the people.

The Rise of User-Generated News

For generations, the only way to hear about what was happening in the world was to watch the television news bulletin or to buy a newspaper. Whilst this worked well enough, this enabled the media to control what images people saw, how the news was reported and from what angle. With social media, people from all over the world can share their story through videos and images, changing the way people get their news and think about news in general.