These days, it seems we can’t go a week without encountering a viral video, a meme sensation or a new digital movement. The year 2011 forged an unprecedented path for these such social media phenomena.
Whether that meant influencing YouTube marketing with a viral advertising campaign or mobilizing the online communication of an entire political movement, people are discovering that social media is one of the most powerful vehicles for change the world has ever experienced. In 2011, people were not only affected by social media — they actually effected social media change itself.
We’ve highlighted 19 influential social media moments of the year. Some will make you giggle, while others will cause you to cringe. Either way, they contributed to a better informed and more entertained global community.
How do you predict social media will effect change in 2012?
News of Osama bin Laden's death first broke on Twitter, when chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tweeted "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn." Twitter erupted, breaking records with 12.4 million tweets per hour. Later, President Obama confirmed the news.
In March 2011 a cobra escaped from New York City's Bronx Zoo. But soon enough, he turned up on Twitter, tweeting about his tourism escapades in the Big Apple. With over 218,000 followers,@BronxZoosCobra continues to tweet one-liners to this day.
A few months later, officials delayed takeoffs at JFK airport when they discovered a group of 150 turtles on the tarmac. In response, the @JFKTurtles tweeted about being in the spotlight.
No wedding album would be complete without an adorable photo of the flower girl. In the royal wedding's case, the flower girl was definitely cute, albeit a little frustrated with the noise. She quickly rose to meme status.
Shortly after Charlie Sheen's meltdown, the TV and film celebrity joined Twitter. He soon set the Guinness world record of "Fastest Time to Reach One Million Followers" in a time of 25 hours and 17 minutes.
The following week Sheen welcomed applications from #tigerblood interns via a paid tweet from Internships.com. The tweet read, "I’m looking to hire a #winning INTERN with #TigerBlood. Apply here – http://bit.ly/hykQQF #TigerBloodIntern #internship #ad." Within minutes, the tweet received thousands of clicks, but we have yet to meet the intern.
In May 2011 Congressman Anthony Weiner accidentally tweeted a provocative photo meant for college student Gennette Cordova to all of his followers. He quickly claimed that his account had been hacked. However, the pic had already gone viral on the social web, and the controversy forced Weiner to resign from office the following month.
16. Worldwide Protests
In January 2011 protests escalated against President Hosni Mubarak's regime. The Egyptian government soon cut off Twitter and Facebook access, then shut off Internet and SMS accessaltogether. Soon social networks banded together to provide assistance and support to the Cairo protesters.
The #OWS Twitter hashtag is nearly synonymous with the movement itself, which began as a protest against corporate greed and misplaced economic reform in the U.S. Occupy Wall Street has since mobilized countless forms of social media to aid its effort, inspiring similar efforts worldwide.
As soon as news broke that Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs died in October 2011, the web erupted with condolences. Friends and admirers paid tribute to the tech innovator over social networks, and tweeted photos of impromptu memorials across the world.
When NASA's space shuttle Endeavor launched in May 2011, airplane passenger Stefanie Gordon caught a mesmerizing photo and posted it to Twitter. The photo -- and Gordon herself -- soon achieved viral fame.
Hacker group Scriptkiddies broke into FOX News' Twitter account to tweet false news about the assassination of President Obama. Later the same group hacked NBC News' Twitter account to tweet fake reports of a Ground Zero attack.
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