Viral Cyberactivism and Social Media
The Facebook Breast Cancer awareness meme had several qualities which made it easy for it to make it go viral. The meme hit three main traits that audiences at large are willing to engage with at any given time; those are cyberactivism, personalization, and lack of financial/time commitment.
In general, most audiences are willing to share to their social networks about prosocial movements—it makes them feel good and they like the idea of others associating them with good causes. People also like it when messages are personal. Even more so if there is peer pressure behind that message.
Personalize to Encourage Participation
For instance, when a person receives a direct message from someone within their personal network advocating for a cause, it makes them feel more inclined to want to support that cause as well—they don’t want to be that one person without a heart who didn’t click the “share” button to raise awareness.
Lastly, so long as the only thing being asked of people is simple and doesn’t obligate their time or money, then they’re more than willing to “like” a status, or click the “share” button. However, at the end of the day, while these tactics may result in an increase in “likes” and “shares” and even perhaps some status updates, those don’t directly translate into mobilization efforts that have a direct and lasting impact on those causes that actually are in need of them.
Create Real-Life Efforts for Good
While it is good that social media marketers have shifted the ways in which they’re communicating with their audiences and instead are taking the time to listen to them via social media networks, the key to effective social media networking is leveraging the tools of social media for good.
In the case of the controversial Facebook Breast Cancer awareness memes, the lack of mobility doesn’t do much good for the cause overall. At this point, awareness for Breast Cancer isn’t the issue. Part of the issue is spreading actionable information to both men and women: so things like encouraging early screening for breast cancer and disseminating the facts vs the myths about breast cancer.
While playing a game with a Facebook status is fun, the actual benefit for the cause that it’s claiming to work for is limited and difficult to accurately gauge. Instead, the National Breast Cancer Foundation would benefit from “awareness” efforts that had actionable and relevant efforts that were tied-in to the viral campaign: efforts such as supporting packing HOPE kits, packing Breast Health Kits, writing Encouragement Cards, or creating local branches of the Ladies of Hope volunteer groups.
Mobilize to Make A Difference
As a whole, cyberactivism and prosocial movements have natural advantages over social media mobilization strategies. Firstly, the target market likes to feel good about doing good. Therefore, any cyberactivism movement is going to do better at least in terms of followership versus a services and products brand.
Secondly, as the target market becomes more globally connected, both social awareness and global social responsibility grow with it. The interconnectivity of the world has resulted in a sense that, one person’s problems on one side of the world are no longer their burden alone to bear.
Thanks to social media and the ease of mobilizing cyber advocates, people across the globe are helping each other. Businesses are listening and seeing the benefit of adopting socially conscious business practices and how they reap dividends for their bottom lines. In fact, according to one study, by Forrester Research “some 52% of US consumers factor values into their purchase choices,” going on to say that, “[t]oday’s empowered consumers not only reject corporate irresponsibility but also seek brands that proactively promote beliefs and values aligned with their own.” Contributing to the causes that the target audience cares about results not only in brand loyalty and brand advocacy but when linked with real-life action can mobilize online social networks for good.
The Importance of Brand Authenticity
While it can sound disingenuous to profit off of charity, the overall trend in social media marketing at the moment is leaning toward prosocial causes, environmentalism, and increasing transparency and business practices.
The key to maintaining authenticity in partnering socially conscious business practices into the brand narrative is to ensure that the two narratives merging aligns with one another.
For an extremely tone-deaf example, a fast-food company should not be the sponsors for an athletic event—especially when there are no salad options available from that food chain. Athletes and greasy food don’t mix. The decision to pursue sponsorship anyway looks like a lack of authenticity and reflects poorly on both the brand and the venue.
Cyberactivism and Authorship
How can authors who want to sell their brand and their books learn from cyberactivism and socially conscious business practices? The answer is in pairing authentically with an organization that authentically aligns with their beliefs, their stories, and their message.
For example, authors Saba Tahir and Renee Ahdieh both partner with We Need Diverse Books, a foundation that focuses on bringing more books that feature people of color and more diverse experiences into the publishing world. This organization aligns with Tahir’s and Adieh’s platform because they are both women of color and their stories feature diverse protagonists who deal with complex issues that are unique to their experience.
Another way that authors can adopt prosocial practices is through cause-related marketing. This is done through promising to donate a certain amount of profits to a charity that aligns with the author’s platform. An example of this is author Alana Terry who donated 100% of book sales to Liberty in North Korea on the launch day of her book, Torn Unsunder, a novel about North Korean refugees.
At the end of the day, social media cyberactivism is a powerful tool that, in conjunction with meaningful mobilization, can greatly benefit a good cause and a brand that is authentically aligning with that cause.