The butterfly effect is a metaphor-namely a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Coined by Edward Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist at M.I.T who presented his famous academic paper in 1972 entitled: “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?”
The flap represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale alterations of events (similar to the Domino effect)
In social media, a single flap or post can have a cascading effect. As social media tends to be viral, the effects are far-reaching and cumulative in nature, echoing the flap of the butterfly’s wings. Seemingly innocuous social media activity can essentially have much larger or unintended consequences in the future.
Posts And Social Tornadoes: Fall or Flutter
Scenario 1 (Fall): On the negative side, take the infamous case of the Home Depot tweet in November 2013.
The corporation’s main account tweeted, “Which drummer is not like the other?” accompanied by a photo of two African-American men flanking a man wearing a gorilla suit.
As expected, the tweet was met with much public outrage. The company had to quickly react to initiate damage control. Home Depot apologized and fired the responsible social media agency as well as the employee who authorized the post.
This highlights the power of social media and a company’s associated fragility. Putting one foot wrong can lead to a massive plummet of reputation that can take effort and time to revive.
Scenario 2 (Flutter): On the positive side, take a recent page out of SAP’s attempt to change the company’s perception via social media. Though traditionally seen as an enterprise resource-planning (ERP) provider, SAP additionally has a whole host of innovative products.
Through a 10-week social campaign that was launched in 2013- Hashtag #betterrunworld
SAP was positioned as a business innovation partner and generated the following results:
• 11.1 million impressions on Twitter
• 2.1 million impressions on Facebook
• An increase of 42,995 followers on Twitter
• 30,000 visits to the campaign landing page
It all started with listening to the audience, drawing a heat map, and then laying out a social media strategy.
Doing small things in social channels can lead to accelerated growth further down the chain. For a product or service to morph into one you talk about tomorrow, it is key to reach out and engage in a conversation with the relevant communities.
It’s all about being active where the influencers and early adopters are, answering questions in real-time, requesting feedback, and be willing to reinvent and reposition the product.
On a global front, social media is playing an increasing role in shaping events. For example, in politics and social movements, a small group of passionate people can influence others that are slightly more reticent; still others take notice and also join in.
Definitely there is a butterfly effect attributed to social media, a power to influence and shape events, to snowball, if used effectively.
Ask: Can you cite any examples of the “Butterfly Effect” of Social Media?