It was more than 50 years ago when a group of roughly 100 women marched against the Miss America Beauty pageant.
“We were young radicals, just discovering feminism because we were tired of making coffee but not policy”Robin Morgan, An organizer of the protest
The iconic march is remembered for the women rejecting makeup, bras, and anything that made them conform to a stereotypical beauty (they threw it into a Freedom Trash Can. And no, there were no bra burnings).
Fast forward to now and not much has changed.
Women took to the streets in 2017 to protest inequality in society and fight for equal rights. It was a powerful movement and again would doubtlessly go down in history as ‘iconic’.
But there was something fundamentally different about this protest.
- The protests were not limited to just one area. Women in Sydney, London, Paris, Berlin and even Antarctica, took to the streets to register their dissent.
- The protesters also were huge in number! 500,000 women joined the protest in DC (more than double the initial estimate) and about 750,000 women were estimated to have joined the LA rally.
What made this protest such a success? What had changed from the 1950s to 2017 that enabled so many women to not just participate, but also coordinate their protests?
The answer – Social media.
Take a look at the top social media channels used by advocacy organizations:
Successful advocacy advertising campaigns have always had social media boosting them on.
So, in this post, while we take a look at a few awesome examples of advocacy campaigns, we will also look at how social media helped them become big.
How does social media help advocacy campaigns?
It is important to understand that social media activism (Hashtag activism) can never replace traditional protests.
Peaceful gatherings to register dissent, marching together against a joint goal etc., still have as much impact as it once did.
What social media has done is provide an opportunity to reach more people who think alike and thus amplify their voice.
Here are a few examples of how social media has helped unite people over a common issue.
1. Provides a common platform to share stories
On September 2014 a viral video of Ray Rice (a former running back) of Baltimore Ravens assaulting his wife and dragging her unconscious body in an elevator sparked a critical debate on the internet:
“Why can’t the victims of domestic abuse just leave?”
Though posed as a simple question, it was obvious that there was a deeper problem. Those debating simply did not know what a victim (or survivor) actually faces.
More importantly, they assumed that a woman can ensure her safety by simply leaving a violent relationship.
Beverley Gooden (an author and just another internet user), decided to tell the other side of the story – her story.
She used #WhyIStayed on Twitter, to tell the world why ‘just leaving’ isn’t so easy for someone in an abusive relationship.
The result? It sparked a floodgate of tweets from women all over the world. They came together and shared their personal stories online.
It was one of the largest survivor-led movements. TIMES called it one of the Top 10 hashtags that started a conversation!
While it took a lot of courage for the women to come out and share their stories, it was possible because they had a common platform to do it in!
Twitter (social media) provided them with a place where they could vent, be heard, and get a response.
The result? #WhyIStayed is now a movement that helps and rallies for women in abusive relationships. And it all started because courageous survivors used social media to share
2. Quicker turnaround time
The next story of how social media helped the world is not so dark, but just as important.
WWF ran an ingenious campaign on Snapchat. They used the ‘timed messages’ feature on Snapchat to share selfies of endangered species across the world.
Each of those messages would be on for 10 seconds (timed remember?). But before the messages faded, they would urge the user to share the message, adopt an animal, or make a donation.
The response to the campaign was overwhelming! Not only did it raise awareness about wildlife conservation among millennials, but it also encouraged them to act.
Here is how quickly WWF raised money for their monthly target:
The success of the campaign is undoubtedly due to how intelligent it was. It struck a chord with audience across the globe because it used a social media feature to get their message across.
However, even the most successful campaigns do not see such instantaneous results. Social media enabled the users to quickly respond to the campaign, thus meeting thier goals.
3. Encourages solidarity
A common thread in both the above stories you read is this: fact on social media sparks action to right a wrong.
Both #WhyIStayed and #LastSelfie were based on rectifying a perception (of abuse victims) and an inevitable outcome (extinction).
This story is a bit different. It is about how social media helped people stand together in the face of violence.
A little before the Christmas of 2015 London saw a man (under heavy psychiatric distress) slit the throat of a stranger at a subway.
Justice was swiftly served – he was sentenced to life in a maximum security mental health center.
But it was not before a video of the actual incident was made public on social media. Countless twitteratis watched as an innocent man was taken down by pure hate.
In today’s unfortunate world, this incident would have been the opportunity to spread some hate. It definitely would have given rise to anti-islamic sentiments and discrimination.
London surprised us there (thankfully!). The first comment on that video was by a young man who said #YouAintNoMuslimBruv.
The sentiment and the hashtag resonated not just with muslims, but with audiences across the globe.
Hundreds of people used the same tweet to stand in solidarity behind the message and stood up. As an article rightly pointed out – terror does not have a religion. It most definitely is not Islamic.
Thankfully social media was there to help people register that fact. It was a platform that enabled numerous people to stand behind one idea and show solidarity.
These examples drive home a simple fact. While people are the ones who drive an advocacy campaign, social media is an amazing tool that can help shape its success.
Are there down-sides to advocacy campaigns using social media?
It should be noted that not Hashtag activism is not always this successful. For instance, the movement #BringBackOurGirls did not result in Boko Haram releasing the 200 girls he kidnapped.
What it did do is bring attention to the injustices suffered by women (and children) in a small town in Nigeria.
Without social media, it is safe to say that their struggles wouldn’t be noticed that instantaneously.
So yes, social media is great for creating awareness for your cause. Still, there are certain downsides to this social media activism.
1. Too much cluttered content (very hard for some causes to be heard)
Some of the hashtags are so overused (and trolled) that it is quite tough for fledgeling organisation to be heard over the noise.
Unless the organisation has a social media expert on their team, or by chance get the attention of a celebrity (and thus go viral) they cannot cut through the excessive content and be heard.
2. No set way to measure impact
For an organization to seriously adopt social media efforts for their cause, they have to define metrics. Otherwise, it will be impossible to keep funnelling resources into that channel.
Unfortunately it is tricky to define the impact social media has on a cause. Measuring likes, shares and comments are all well and good.
But they do not tell organization which channel had the most impact in bringing them donors, or to what extent social media helped in boosting attendance for an event.
Without such hard numbers it is difficult for small organizations to constantly spend their funds on one channel.
3. Does not give you another point of view
From an individual’s perspective social media doesn’t help in encouraging conversation about an issue. Movements like #WhyIStayed and #MeToo are few and far between.
In general since all the algorithms are designed to show users content based on what they like, they live ‘in a bubble’ that only echoes their thoughts.
So it is close to impossible for an organization to reach out to a non-supporter and convince him of their cause.
While these are downsides to keep in mind, it does not mean that you ignore social media entirely. These excellent advocacy campaign examples will show you how to use social media right for your campaign.
Best examples of advocacy campaign
The examples of activism we saw above were those that were strictly powered through social media. Though it created awareness and encouraged people to act, these movements were not combined with mainstream (or traditional) protests.
In these examples we will see how organizations used social media to further their cause.
Example #1: Post it Forward
The aim of launching “Post It Forward” was to break down silos of cyberbullying, body shaming, and issues related to sexuality.
Tumblr launched the “Post It Forward” campaign in 2015 to promote positivity and support within online communities. People were invited to share their personal stories and struggles without the fear of being judged. Individuals facing emotional or psychological distress could engage in a positive conversation and find the support they needed.
Use of the tag #PostItForward made it easy to connect users directly to support and counseling resources and to find other stories.
How did it succeed?
The campaign caught the attention and was supported by some very important people like ex VP Joe Biden, celebrities like Brittany Snow, Pete Wentz, Jordin Sparks, Elizabeth Banks, Wendy Williams and First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray. These personalities helped jump-start the conversation by sharing their personal stories and advice.
The tag was not only going viral on Tumblr, but also across leading social platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter. Using GIF’s made the campaign popular among younger audiences ( their target segment ) and selling merchandise helped increased donations.
- Make your campaign discoverable through eye-catching #HashTags
- Use vivid art and quick-witted content to gain attention
- Make use of GIFs so that teens can relate to it better
- Tag celebrities to help jump-start your campaign
- Sell limited-edition merchandise to leverage the popularity you built
Example #2: He for She
UN women initiated the “He for She” campaign towards the advancement of gender equality. It seeks to actively involve men and boys in a movement against inequality originally conceived as a struggle for women by women.
The movement was launched in 2015. Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, spoke about her own struggles and called upon men and boys to join the movement, the video was widely circulated via social media.
How did it succeed?
Within 24 hours of its launch, HeForShe saw an 82% increase in Twitter followers, a 305% increase in Facebook likes and 3500% increase in Instagram followers. In their video, the UN Women made a call to mobilize the first 100,000 men which were achieved within three days of its launch.
The campaign created more than 1.2 billion conversations over major social media platforms. It had a positive effect on a small village in Zimbabwe. The villagers were committed to turning themselves into better husbands, fathers, and brothers.
The campaign sought active support from Heads of states, corporations, and universities. Former President Barack Obama, actor Matt Damon, and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were the first ones to take up the cause.
- Add a deadline for your campaign, it adds a sense of urgency
- Don’t limit yourself to a single channel, be where your audience is
- Promote the positive impact your campaign has had to keep the momentum going
Example #3: Hashtag Killer
“Water is Life” launched the hashtag Killer campaign to bring clean drinking water to the world’s poorest populations. The organization took a popular tag, used every day across social media, and gave it an entirely new meaning.
The #Firstworldproblems meme is associated with tweets about trivial life burdens of people such as forgetting the last name of the maid while writing a cheque or leaving clothes in the washer for so long that it smells.
The campaign video features Haitians reciting a list of these “first world problem” tweets, with a series of personalized responses to console those who used the tag on Twitter. The aim was to generate donations to help third world countries.
How did it succeed?
The campaign generated awareness and its message was spread all over social media. It won several awards for the innovative use of the popular meme #Firstworldproblems. The YouTube video received over 6 million views and several thousand shares over various social channels.
Celebrities like LMFAO, Christina Milian, Michael Ian Black, and others responded to the trivial tweets, which kick-started the campaign and gave it wide attention.
The aim was met successfully. The organization was able to drill six new wells and install a water treatment plant in Northern Haiti.
- Use popular memes and give it a totally different meaning to tailor your campaign
- Use humor to create videos
- Make sure that your posts are being shared and circulated
Example #4: Big Tobacco Be Like
Truth launched the “Big Tobacco Be Like” campaign to dismantle delusions surrounding social smoking. The video demonstrates how every time an individual tries to rationalize social smoking, Big Tobacco gets paid. The campaign made use of the popular #BeLike meme with humorous spin-offs.
The campaign was led by vine and Instagram stars. 15-second vine-like vignettes showed smoker’s perception versus Big Tobacco’s reality. Instagram influencers like Logan Paul, Allicattt, Jerry Purpdrank, and Christian DelGrosso co-produced these humorous videos.
How did it succeed?
The campaign ads were smartly launched on popular national television channels so as to target 12-24 year old demographic. Also, it was seen during the premiere of the popular series ‘The Walking dead’.
Within the first 24 hours, the videos had 4 million views, 1 million per video. By the end of the campaign, the number exploded to 59 million.
Truth saw a 55% increase among young people agreeing with their message. They were able to reduce social smoking among teens successfully.
- Appeal to their emotions
- Make use of popular memes to your advantage
- Get social media influencers to co-produce your videos, making it popular among the younger audience
In every one of the campaigns above, choosing the right social media channel also played a huge role.
If your audience is younger, then Snapchat or Instagram may work. If you need to engage them in a conversation, then Twitter would work. Quite apart from all of this, the best channel for your organization would be where your target audience is most active.
So good luck with your next advocacy campaign! I hope these examples helped in giving you a few ideas on using social media more effectively for your cause!