How would the Rebel Alliance use social media?
In the original Star Wars trilogy, the Rebel Alliance is a fledgling network of freedom fighters, comprised of soldiers, defectors, idealists, and everyday people looking to reestablish the democratic governance system of the Old Republic. The Alliance spans the galaxy from the Imperial capital in Coruscant, all the way to the far reaches of the Outer Rim territories.
Under the watchful eye of the Empire, the Rebels have to respond quickly to what’s happening around them. It’s critical for them to find new ways to communicate quickly and effectively, transmitting the most relevant and targeted information to the right people, at the right time—this is how they gain followers for their cause, and maintain visibility and relevance.
So how would the Rebel Alliance use social media in a galaxy far far away?
History on repeat
Throughout our own history on Earth, we’ve seen innovations in communication that have helped level the playing field for the underrepresented. Despite the fact that instantaneous global telecommunication is a fairly recent development, the principles behind what make for an effective “social campaign” have held true since the printed word.
In the 1500s, the recent invention of the printing press allowed information to spread on a scale unlike ever before. Martin Luther used this new communications technology to distribute propaganda pamphlets and mass-produce his translation of Biblical texts to German vernacular; a revolutionary act that empowered Germanic people in the Holy Roman Empire to read Biblical texts in their native tongue and served to develop a unified foundation for a then-fragmented German language and cultural identity.
However, what makes Luther’s pursuits a true mirror of today’s most successful social media campaigns was the baked in virality1. The “sharability” of pamphlets and the relative speed at which they can be reprinted allowed for rapid distribution across people’s personal networks. Luther shows us how unique, engaging, and relevant content can proliferate well beyond a single person’s social sphere.
In the lead-up to the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin, the first Postmaster General, demonstrates another key principle of effective social messaging: consistency. In the 1760s, Franklin helped establish a network of riders to deliver news throughout the thirteen colonies. Innovation came in the form of high-relevance and timeliness of information2—these riders traveled day and night to deliver mail and newspapers, often containing messages highlighting grievances against the British crown. The stories contributed to the growth of rebel sympathizers across the colonies, leading to the beginning of the American Revolution.
Fast forward to the present with events like the Arab Spring—we see how the use of social media gives voice to those who would otherwise be voiceless. The era of networked communication has brought with it virtually unlimited speed of distribution and reach at near-zero cost, and the Arab Spring was the first time in history this technology was strategically leveraged by the oppressed to equalize an otherwise asymmetric situation. Advances in communications technologies lower the barrier to entry for disseminating information, and when used effectively, can have revolutionary outcomes.
So back to Star Wars
One of the unsung heroes of Star Wars is the Rebellion’s social media strategy. Their Facebook page. Their Twitter page. Princess Leia’s blog. Why? Because a movement without effective, targeted mass communication will never grow beyond a small gathering of discontents. Know your audience and speak their language. As a Rebel, it is important to communicate a message of liberty to the oppressed. We will no longer answer to brute force, taxation without representation3, and forced labor. We can no longer let them take our moisture farms4 without probable cause or warrant.
You must show the sentient beings of the galaxy the effects of the Empire’s heavy-handed rule on an individual level. Broadcast your personal story and connect with those who share in similar experiences5. Be timely and relevant in the messages that you put out onto the Galactic Holonet. Post fast and post often; consistency is key! And finally, use data to understand the efficacy of your campaigns and the sentiment of your fellow beings so that your efforts have maximal impact.
Whether you’re a 16th century Protestant Reformer, an American Revolutionary, a savvy Tunisian social media activist, or an Alderaanian princess, the tenets of what make for a compelling and successful social campaign are the same across time and space.
The Rebels in YOUR Alliance
Social media marketing is in its infancy and oft misunderstood. The value of connecting with customers on this level is not usually reflected in some tangible metric, so it can’t be encapsulated in a simple ROI value that makes an obvious and compelling case at face-value. However, there are very real and powerful effects of social that can’t be denied. Businesses are beginning to understand the value of brand advocates; the Rebels in your Alliance.
Brand advocacy develops out of an individual’s personal connection with a brand; something that goes deeper than simply purchasing your products or services. It could be because of your compelling story, your commitment to the community, or your passion for industry. These are things that must be discovered and messaged deliberately and consistently. Brand advocates do not develop out of old-school value propositions like having the lowest prices—this makes your relationship with customers purely transactional, only keeping them interested until the next company comes along to offer a better deal.
The Rebels in Star Wars risk life and limb for their cause because they share common core values, experiences, and desires. They are not enticed by the same gun-for-hire motivations that rule the galaxy’s underworld—the bounty hunters and scoundrels (excl. Han Solo). Rebels do not switch allegiance because the Hutts are offering more credits and your Brand Advocates won’t abandon you at the sight of a better “deal”.
As a business owner, you’re probably not interested in strategies to foment rebellion against a Galactic Empire, but you can definitely take away some lessons in developing loyalty to your brand from the Rebel Alliance. Dig deep to develop your brand story, communicate it properly, and be consistent about it.
May the Force be with you!
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