From 2011’s #OccupyWallStreet and #Kony2012 to more recent campaigns like, #BlackOutTuesday and #ChallengeAccepted, hashtag-fueled social media activism campaigns take feeds by storm; generate rapid, but short-lived engagement; and then fade away right in time for the next “movement.” Although well-intentioned and designed to amplify awareness and showcase solidarity, these campaigns tend to fall flat when it comes to making a measurable change. Instead, some social media activism campaigns enable participants to feel a sense of achievement simply by engaging in low-effort, low-impact tactics such as uploading selfies, liking posts and using hashtags.
But, as perhaps the most noteworthy social media campaign — the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge — proved, the good news is, when approached strategically and authentically, social media can be used as an influential catalyst for change. If you want to develop a compelling cause-driven campaign that transcends passive participation, consider these six tips:
1. Set goals and objectives
Every strong social media campaign is grounded in goals and objectives that employ a S.M.A.R.T approach, in other words, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. This crucial first step allows you to identify desired outcomes and helps keep the campaign on track.
2. State a clear message
When galvanizing action for a cause, it is important to ensure that your message is clear and compelling. A concrete message allows supporters to understand what the cause is about and why they should engage. Additionally, establishing a focused message early on helps to combat confusion and co-opting as the campaign picks up traction on social media platforms.
3. Share a specific call to action
In addition to knowing why they should get involved, supporters need to know how they can take action. Whether it’s encouraging people to vote, motivating participants to contact community leaders to demand justice or matching individual gifts, sharing a specific call to action that focuses on elevating your cause rather than enabling an ego boost is paramount to inspiring action instead of passive participation.
4. Select the right platform
The desire to share your message far and wide may lead you to a common trap: the idea that your campaign needs to be on every social media platform. An effective way to avoid this trap is to meet your intended audience where they are. For example, an Instagram campaign is ideal if you’re trying to reach Gen Z adults and Millennials, while Facebook is better for engaging Gen X.
5. Settle on a relevant hashtag
Hashtags play a key role in expanding your campaign reach and engaging supporters. Campaign hashtags should capture and contextualize the essence of the message and call to action you are tying to convey. Before settling on a hashtag, conduct a search to ensure that it is not in use, especially by other organizations in your space. When possible, aim to select a hashtag that is flexible, meaning it can be implemented seamlessly at the beginning, within or at the end of a sentence.
6. Showcase impact
After the campaign concludes, it’s important to communicate the results as it allows supporters to see the impact of their contribution. By seeing impact, participants are more likely to continue supporting your cause well beyond the campaign and may even rally engagement from their family, friends, colleagues, etc.
Meaningful change starts with one small step. While social media may not single-handedly resolve pressing issues, when used properly it has the power to be an effective tool that can kickstart action and scale social impact for good.
Image via Unsplash user dole777