From memes to fake news, in many ways social media has been criticized for not being productive for society. As communicators, we utilize these platforms to engage with target audiences, spread essential information and drive stronger relationships between our customers and their clients – and we are forced to compete with this noise by strategically constructing our messages to stick out among the rest. As social media amplifies the voices of many, organizational communicators must navigate hundreds of thousands of posts to get users’ attention. While frivolous content is not always harmless, it’s challenging to outshine, and drawing attention to important causes, organizations and events is an ongoing battle. This challenge begs the question: how can organizations utilize social media to drive social responsibility/social good initiatives in a world where everyone is competing to be heard?
Within the last decade, there has been an increase in the number of ways social media can be used to better the world around us and help others. These instances have served as learning points for future campaigns, teaching us that the ability to reach thousands of people through the palms of our hands is often a double-edged sword, but this approach can churn out significant benefits for spreading essential messages at minimal cost. In fact, with the right approach, every day social media users drive this effort on an entity’s behalf.
When utilizing social media to drive social good as a communications strategy, this agent of change can be used to further an initiative or an organizations purpose. However, in order to drive success on social media, they need to encourage participation from the everyday user. Below are two examples of how social good campaigns excelled through utilizing social media and a creative call to action.
- Many individuals participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, an activity that required participants to record themselves pouring a bucket of ice water over their heads, nominating friends to do the same, and then encouraging donations to further the research on ALS. This trend spread through social media and successfully raised over $220 million in 2014. The campaign was so successful that it was reused every following year through 2019.
- The Always #LikeAGirl campaign made a significant impact on society because it encouraged women to challenge the negative connotations of the term by sharing what it means to them on social media. The hashtag #LikeAGirl has 1.6 million tags on Instagram with photos of women displaying their strength and confidence showcasing that “like a girl” is a compliment. This particular campaign succeeded because it welcomed others into the conversation and encouraged women to share their stories on their own platforms.
With these examples in mind, communicators should pivot their campaigns and apply creative participation – along with the additional methods below – to their future social good campaigns:
- Timeliness: When it comes to social media, the timeliness of content can determine where it lands on someone’s feed. The combination of a timely story along with the proper hashtags will garner proper placement on the feeds of those the topic is best suited for. Due to the many algorithms in place across various platforms, if something relates to an individual (in that they interact with posts on the topic often), it is much more likely to show up on their feed. Communicators should think about what people are already talking about, what people should be talking about, and how this all plays into current events. Chances are, if individuals have engaged in social media-based activities about the topic before, they will be compelled to do so again – or to at least interact with the post.
- The Search for Positivity: In a world where the news cycle can be quite daunting, people are looking for feel good stories that elicit positive emotions. Much like John Krasinski’s “Some Good News” YouTube series, people look forward to hearing good news, and better yet – participating in it. Although a topic like ALS is not associated with positivity by any means, the creators of the campaign thought long and hard about how they could get people talking about it and make it stick. By turning a campaign to raise money for research and increase awareness into a fun social media-based activity with participants encouraging their friends to join – it turned a difficult subject to talk about into a widespread, well-discussed issue.
- Big Ideas Inspire Action: Rick Smith of Forbes said it right: “Big ideas get noticed; Selfless ideas inspire action; Simple ideas write us into the story.” Selfless actions taken by an organization and presented in major ways spark engagement. The unique, out-of-the-box idea of pouring ice water on our heads and encouraging others to participate provoked engagement which made the creative ALS campaign so successful. A rather hard topic to discuss, and also one that was rarely discussed by people not impacted by the disease, turned into a topic that thousands educated themselves on by the end of the campaign. Similarly, the #LikeAGirl campaign took a phrase that is spoken very often and spun it into something positive and encouraged others to participate in changing the connotation of the phrase, as well. By thinking outside of the box and giving the term new meaning, this big idea turned what use to be considered an insult to women into a compliment.
While social media can be used for humor and lighthearted content, along with other content that is viewed negatively in terms of productivity, the power of social media can also be used to help others and to change the world. Communicators have been tasked with breaking through all the noise, to create successful social campaigns that generate a positive outcome. As well-seasoned communicators, the strategic use of social media that encourages participation is a good way to start. So, how are you using it to bring about change?