Last week, I went “off the grid” for a volunteer trip to Honduras. As someone who lives and breathes social media, tech, and the internet on a daily basis, I thought this trip would be a welcomed break from being connected. As it turns out, even in the rural countryside of a developing Latin American country, I couldn’t escape the long arm of Facebook.
To provide some context, I was volunteering with Global Brigades, an organization with a mission to “empower volunteers to facilitate sustainable solutions in under-resourced communities while fostering local cultures.” There are multiple facets to the program, though the one I attended was focused on providing community health care.
Each day, we traveled several hours away from the capital city, Tegucigalpa, into the countryside of Honduras. Arriving at a small compound which was used for a school, we set up stations to speak with, treat, and distribute medicine to the residents of the village. The village had no electricity. We brought our own gas generator to provide power for an electronic medical records system. Many of the homes had no running water. We had to haul in tanks of fresh water just for our use during the day. Needless to say, I figured I was about as far away from Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or websites as I would ever be!
By the end of the week-long trip, I had all but forgotten about keeping up to date with Facebook statuses or checking-in to places on Foursquare. Then, the true power and reach of Facebook smacked me right in the face.
There I was, in the middle of a small village in rural Latin America, talking to a teenage girl from the area we were providing service to. She told me she was studying to be an English teacher. We discussed her career aspirations and the differences between Honduran and American life. I enjoyed our conversation and the novelty of sharing about our different cultures. Then, she did it…she asked, “Do you have El Face?”
What? Had she just asked me if I had Facebook? I had to double check. “Do you mean, FACEBOOK?” I asked. Not being fluent in Spanish, I had to make sure that something hadn’t been lost in translation. Certainly, a teenager from a village that had no electricity, barely had running water, and had no garbage collection service, couldn’t be asking me if I used Facebook. But she was.
“Sí, por supuesto! Todo el mundo tiene El Face!” she exclaimed. Roughly translated, she was saying, “DUH, of course I have Facebook. The whole world has Facebook!”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. With over 901 million active monthly users, Facebook could stand alone as the 3rd largest country in the world. In fact, on the Fanpage Toolkit page alone, we have fans from over 25 countries, so I’m well aware that Facebook is a global force. It was after returning home to find a friend request from my new Honduran friend, though, that the global power of the social network really struck me on a personal level.
To me, this story highlights the point that the world is truly your audience with Facebook. Though we may all experience vast differences in our day to day lives, Facebook has become a common ground for interaction. Sure, the Honduran teenager I met may not be as involved with Facebook as I am. (I rarely ever close it!) In fact, she probably only accesses it about once a week when she travels to a bigger city. But, the very fact that the social network could serve as a common ground between our two very different lives in the first place is intriguing to me.
In the future, I’d love to see more small businesses, “Mom & Pop shops,” and local brands embrace this worldly point of view. Why think locally when you could be making connections globally through a Facebook page? Has your brand started engaging fans globally? What could you do to provide value to others outside of your local area? Clearly, with Facebook, global is the new local.
There’s no reason to limit your audience when Facebook seems to have penetrated almost every corner of the earth. Or in the words of my new friend, “Todo el mundo tiene El Face!”
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