What good is social media awareness without action?

In our socially conscious world, jumping on the social media bandwagon is part and parcel of a modern way of life. To be seen to be offended by, or in support of an issue, is often just as important to some people as the topic itself.

This mentality, however, has its downsides.

News spreads so quickly, meaning we as social media users can hear about a topic within seconds, digitally riding the immediate wave of outrage or support. Tweeting, snapping or generally ranting about this issue’s state of affairs, and offering ‘advice’ on how it should be solved. Huge spikes in public interest can help shift opinions, drive political change and make a real difference to human lives. But, what good is social media awareness without positive action?

Who remembers Kony 2012?

The best example in recent years of massive awareness, but little action, was the documentary Kony 2012. Released to widespread social outrage, the video is said to have reached over half of young adults in America at the time, with widespread condemnation of  the man and his atrocities. The initial reception stated it had “mobilised the world” (by a man interviewed for the film) and praised the makers for reaching “tens of millions of people who probably never previously heard of Joseph Kony.”

So far, so good?

Not quite. The video received widespread criticism, noted in detail here by the Guardian, including allegations of misappropriation of funds by the filmmakers and their significant factual ignorances throughout the documentary.The interest evaporated as quickly as it started through an unfocused attempt to encourage public action.

In short, there were too many messages: capture Kony; kill Kony; America to intervene; Africa to intervene. Of all these, the most important one was desperately lacking in support – encourage aid for his victims. Today, how many of you now know of any results of the documentary? If Kony’s on the run, in prison or even dead? If the victims have been supported?

But, there are successes…

Of course, I can’t write the above without mentioning the times when social media awareness has converted brilliantly to real-world action.

Most widely-known of these was of course the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Perhaps the biggest social media phenomena to-date, it raised over £90 million for the charity and has directly helped fund a major breakthrough. It’s rare that I actually involve myself in these kinds of movements, largely because very few have ever really grabbed my interest, or inspired me to take part. The Ice Bucket Challenge was an exception, but no, you’re not seeing the video.

So impactful was the whole campaign that The Smithsonian recently announced it has acquired the original bucket for an exhibit on human philanthropy. An extraordinary achievement in the success of any campaign, and a special recognition for it’s rightful place in 21st history.

Define your aims

Any sort of campaign, calling for social change, or simply a business promoting its wares, has to understand its goals and objectives. What it’s actually trying to achieve. It may seem obvious, but unless your message is clear and easy to understand, the audience will act in the way they think best, which may not necessarily match what you want them to do.

Where the Ice Bucket Challenge succeeded and Kony 2012 failed was the difference in the aims. The very simple objective of raising money for research for ALS, versus the convoluted messages of the Kony documentary.

You’re now aware… go and act.

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Dad, digital marketeer at Tank PR, Derby County fan, film buff, book worm and husband. In that order, but don't tell the wife.

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