Whether it’s a black square on #BlackOutTuesday or a black and white selfie for #womensupportingwomen, it’s likely you’ve seen a campaign related to a social cause take over your news feed.
But at a time when talks about taking action are louder than ever, how much good can social media campaigns really do? The fact is that they are not all the same, and you want to pause before deciding who to support.
According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of the Americans surveyed said they had engaged in any form of political or social media-related activity in 2018.
Over the past decade, a variety of social media campaigns have filled social media. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge 2014 urged citizens on the internet to dunk themselves with ice water, donate money to ALS research and tap friends and family to do the same.
In the tech world, #ILookLikeAnEngineer made women in technology visible after internet comments questioned a female engineer’s legitimacy based on her appearance. The #MeToo movement reached a boiling point in 2017, emphasizing the pervasive sexual harassment, discrimination and violence in various industries – women shared stories, and some of the most powerful actors in countless industries fell. #BlackLivesMatter, founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Treyvon Martin, found an international supporter. It has only gotten bigger in recent months when protests erupted around the world.
But just as much as social media has been helpful in organizing movements, galvanizing support and even influencing the public, there is reason to pause before jumping on the bandwagon and publishing for the latest campaign du jour.
“Social media campaigns are not necessarily just a fad or a lip service. Good things have the ability to come out of them,” said Nadia Brown, an associate professor of political science at Purdue University.
Yet the rapid nature of social media makes them tricky.
In June, Black Lives Matter advocates sounded the alarm that people who tagged their #BlackLutTuesday posts with #BlackLivesMatter inadvertently drowned out important information on the BLM hashtag. Some have left itching on their heads about how exactly to post a black and white selfie to support women. Still, the hashtag #Challengeccepted took more than 3 million uploads at the end of July.
“Most people probably do not get to the heart of the challenge of truly understanding the meaning or potential of what it can accomplish, because ‘I’ in social media is always a priority,” says Brian Solis, digital anthropologist and global innovation. evangelist at Salesforce.
So which campaigns should you participate in and which ones should you avoid? It is impossible to offer a set of guidelines that suits everyone – each campaign is different and exists for a different reason. It is also important to remember, as Brown said, that people around the world are at different stages of waking up to many of the injustices that are baked into our everyday systems and institutions. There are still some steps you can take before pressing Mail.
Find out who is behind the campaign
Although internet speed and immediacy seem to require quick responses, it’s worth taking the time to research a campaign before throwing the social media weight behind you.
“Who is behind it is really important,” said Nolan Cabrera, an associate professor of educational policy and practice at the University of Arizona. “Which groups are sponsoring? These are critically important issues.”
Check if the campaign is tailored to a specific organization and find out its goals and motives. Is it a non-profit organization? A company? An individual? A body that represents members of an industry?
“Listen to the activists who are most central to this movement and learn and read what they say earlier [taking] an action, says Rachel Einwohner, professor of sociology and political science at Purdue University.
Cabrera said it is good to pay attention to those who have “[their] finger on the pulse and could give more meaningful reflection on what this is and whether it is something that is valuable or not. “
Identify the campaign strategy
Depending on the campaign, it may call for action: raise money, collect signatures, attend an event or call an elected official.
Before you jump on board, find out the campaign’s strategy.
Often, a campaign can simply be built to raise awareness. While not necessarily negative or disqualifying, there are limitations to such a campaign. It may call for interest and speed but does not necessarily direct it anywhere.
“It’s really hard to call it social activism if it’s not directly linked to some kind of action, some kind of disruption and makes groups or powers actually respond,” Cabrera said.
Still, as Brown pointed out, for those who become aware of various injustices, posting in solidarity with something that family and friends do not agree with can be an important step, visibly taking a stand.
“We have to take into account where people come from,” Brown said.
Double check your hashtags
Hashtags are a crucial feature of social media campaigns. That is what binds all posts together.
However, if you are not careful, you can erase the effect of a hashtag, as was the case with #BlackLiveMatter during #BlackOutTuesday. A hashtag that is too vague may include posts that are not related to the campaign. Or a hashtag previously used for something else, or done hastily, can also cause confusion.
“The biggest problem is that it can really inadvertently silence the people whose voices are to be heard,” Cabrera said.
Translate your support beyond a post or similar
During your social media, critics have questioned how effective a post is – and the idea of posting without taking further action is just the execution of an alliance.
Carmen Perez, co-chair of Women’s March and executive director of The Gathering for Justice, which aims to capture child imprisonment, said that when she publishes on social media, the post is just a springboard.
“I want to make sure I also provide a vehicle for an action,” Perez said.
Brown asks these questions: “What measures will come with this? Does this change your behavior? Are you going to write a letter to your congressman, go down to protest? Are you going to boycott companies that are discriminatory?”
So once you have checked out a social media campaign to participate in, remember that there is much more that can come after that.