Written by Brigid Sweeney, Manager, Global Agency Marketing & Business Development at Racepoint Global (and MITX FLG alumnus)
On September 21st, I attended MITX’s FutureM conference, where I was witness to inspiring conversations and breakthrough ideas from C-level executives and other industry professionals. I am no stranger to MITX – I have been attending MITX events and workshops throughout my professional career and just last year, was selected to join their Future Leaders Group (FLG). During my time in the FLG, I was lucky enough to work with seven other young professionals who were elected into the program based on leadership skills, entrepreneurial spirit, and early impact on the Massachusetts innovation ecosystem. The FLG offers young professionals the opportunity to network and meet with esteemed industry leaders such as Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, and Diane Hessan, former President & CEO of C Space. Although I’ve since graduated from the FLG, I was able to return for their 2016 FutureM conference and sit in on Joi Ito’s Inspire Talk.
Joi Ito is the director of the MIT Media Lab, as well as an MIT professor. Throughout the session, Joi shared his recent research from the MIT Media Lab, which focused on how to better understand conversations online, and how social engagement is evolving and continues to surprise us all.
Framing Affects Perception
Data recently collected at the MIT Media Lab revealed that the media’s framing of the Black Lives Matter movement and the tragic shootings in Orlando has directly impacted public sentiment over race and equality in America. The data illustrates that what online users find discussion-worthy on Twitter is very different from what is being reported as the “important issues” in the polls:
- Clinton followers used the tragedy in Orlando to raise the issues of gun violence and LGBT rights
- Trump followers primarily talked about terrorism, and what the government should be doing to combat attacks
The most surprising takeaway from the study of the Media Lab’s data is that Hillary Clinton, our former Secretary of State, is directly associated with the economy. In contrast, veteran businessman, Donald Trump, is associated with foreign policy.
Trolls in the Social Media Space
One of the primary goals of the MIT Media Lab is to identify and pinpoint the Twitter users who create the most online chaos, or “trolls.” Trolls are social media users that spark discussions which effectively create panic anywhere in the world. In general, online trolls do not maintain any of their own values or beliefs, but have end goals of discovering what other users care about, and then attacking it.
What’s even more shocking is that paid trolls are being used to manipulate discussions surrounding elections around the world. These trolls are paid by independent organizations backing certain candidates or issues, in order to ignite controversial dialogues across social media platforms. For example, Donald Trump doesn’t directly control his troll supporters, but they still maintain a one-sided power that has ultimately benefited his campaign.
Takeaways for Marketers
Joi’s presentation left me with some key marketing takeaways:
- As marketers, we need to be more “punk rock” in order to reframe conversations online. We should become a part of the movement by getting directly involved with the issues dominating media conversations. Whether you join a coalition, or simply share your opinion online, we have been given the power to influence others to take action.
- Marketers should use data to reframe the message. Nothing is more compelling than cold, hard facts. It’s challenging to argue with concrete data, so marketers should be utilizing every resource available to us in order to best support our claims.
- Compassion and nonviolence are not passive; they are active strategies that will change mindsets. In order to establish an influential voice online, you must remember to be kind, and universally understanding in order to appeal to everyone across your audience.