Social media drove the Egyptian revolution but can it bring back the tourists?
I arrived wondering if social media was used more in business in Egypt in other places now that the power of these tools was obvious to all. But I learned an important fact as I was talking to people about social media. Many people I spoke with told me how the country is suffering because tourists are scared to come because of what they read and see in the media. People think Egypt is dangerous for foreigners. Tourism is a very important industry in Egypt and a critical source of foreign currency investment and the numbers of visitors is way down.
So at my Masterclass, I asked why not use social media to get the word out that Egypt is open for business and now is a great time to visit? I filmed a short video, including interviews with some social media leaders in the country.
Revolution 2.0: The power of the people is greater than the people in power
Wael Ghonim's memoir tells the fascinating story of how he became the anonymous admin of a Facebook page Kullena Khaled Said, which turned into a critical social media communication point for political change.
Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian, was tortured to death by the police. He became the symbol for many Egyptians who wanted to see an end to the Mubarak regime that perpetrated such violence, conducted under the 30-year-old long emergency martial law.
Ghonim was an ordinary middle class Egyptian citizen who was living in Dubai and working for Google. Many of his Facebook posts (which because they were done under the "admin" role were anonymous) captured the sentiments of young people eager for change. When the Tunisian government fell under similar circumstances, the time was right. "I feel that very soon we will turn the page, claim our pen, and begin writing our future with our own hands," Ghonim wrote on the page. (6,317 Likes 2,077 Comments 1,244,267 Views).
Ghonim was eventually arrested and spent more than a week in prison. His book reads like a spy novel as he describes the ways he hid his identity and had people help him with the page even when he was unable to.
The culmination was the massive protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square and central locations in many other cities. "Message to the regime: The people on the streets raise the level of their demands with every passing hour. The current demand that needs to be fulfilled as fast as possible is for the president to step down and leave Egypt." (5,514 Likes 5,030 Comments 1,013,841 Views).
Ghonim doesn't claim credit for the revolution nor did anybody I spoke with say that he should. He says there are other more outspoken and more courageous people than him. But there is no doubt that his social networking and marketing skills led to a new "Revolution 2.0" model for political change.
The lessons can be applied to any communications. Let's hope social media can help bring the tourists back to Egypt.