Social marketing lessons for Gaddafi

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The Arab world recently learned that social media can have a powerful impact on the political landscape of entire nations. Because large groups of people can communicate ideas very efficiently, it is now almost impossible for governments (apart from China) to subject their citizens to good old fashioned propogandist media.

Social media is like an antidote to brainwashing.

Actually, it is my personal belief that democracy is only a stepping stone to a far more stable and efficient mandated meritocracy that is operated via the social Internet. Decisions can be made by large groups of qualified meritocrats far more efficiently that current systems. Power is devolved to a far larger group of people and inefficient governments simply become administrative bodies that implement the will of the people instead of guiding them.

But that's for another time... back to the story at hand.

Gaddafi's big mistake

In social marketing terms, Gaddafi is making a huge mistake. He's not taking his point of view online. He's all over the news, which is a social marketers dream. That kind of reach simply can't be duplicated. Now, admittedly he is in the news because he's a nasty guy sitting on a lot of oil, but that doesn't change the fundamentals of his position.

Talk about "reach"

First, he has market penetration on a local and regional stage. Everyone in his country is listening to, and watching, everything he says and does. He has access to traditional media - newspapers, state broadcasters and so on.

Further afield, he has large news corporations beating down his door to get him on tv. Almost all of them, however, are hostile and it has to be a fairly unpleasant experience dealing with some vitriolic news presenter who's job it is to make him look like the ogre the west needs him to be, in order to secure Libya's oil reserves.

The potential for social engagement

Everyone, no matter whether they love or hate him, are going to listen to what he has to say. This is engagement at its best. Businesses fork out billions each year to generate this sort of public interest. He's got it coming out of the wazoo and he's completely ignoring it.

If Gaddafi really wanted to press his case, him and his government should be spending a few hours everyday on twitter and facebook. They should be writing articles and blog posts. Can you imagine how the world would lap this up? If I knew Gaddafi himself was sitting in a bomb shelter writing about his thoughts, fears and experiences, I would be following him.

Now, let me make it clear. I don't support Gaddafi. I am merely observing that he has the power to engage hundreds of millions of people through social media and he's not doing it. By taking his case direct to the public and engaging with them, it may well be possible for him to undermine the West's efforts to remove him.

His social marketing goal

Traditional media is no longer the best way to get your side of the story across, because it comes with latent biases. Gaddafi should be pleading his case to each and every citizen of the West, through social networks, because that's where we are. His message gets directly to us without the lens of political and economic manipulations that come through our traditional media.

I guess it is really fitting that someone like Gaddafi could plead his case directly to the people of the West. Since, after all, we are the ones prosecuting war against him. Seems far more fair to me, and why shouldn't he take his chances with us? Sure, he'd get a lot of hatemail, but who knows what may come of it. After all, have any of you ever actually met him? No! You believe what you've been told by your government.

If the support for military action is diminished back home, he's effectively pulled the rug from under the Western governments and can continue being a dodgy third world African dictator.

On a lighter note - monetization

I heard that the British froze something like a billion pounds in Gaddafi's assets. I reckon if he got hold of one of those bobble-head manufacturers and sold a range of Gaddafi action figure bobble-heads from his blog for $20 a pop he could make that back in online revenue. I'd buy one. Just think how much a hand signed Gaddafi bobble-head would be worth if he was killed in a bombing raid after making only a few hundred. eBay would strip a bolt.