The fact that social networks have become a vital information resource for mainstream news outlets, brands and everyday people is no longer news to anybody. We’re all aware that brands have been using them to their advantage for quite some time now, having noticed the benefits of investing time and effort in social media, grade A brands such as Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Converse are all still leading the way in this space and are benefiting from the added awareness that strategic social media programmes create. More recently, lesser known brands have been using this benefit to their advantage, these brands being everyday people like you and me.
The most important and powerful element of social media is the word ‘social’. Defined as relating to society, companionship or an informal social gathering; it is this element of a connected network, joining together and sharing things of a similar interest that adds true value. It is this concept that is making way for a new, more powerful use of social media, something that aims to make a difference or inspire a change; the rise of internet activism.
I recently read an article based on this topic, it is inspiri4069040701_b78c100d18_zng to see just how much social media has changed the face of activism and empowered people to make a change who otherwise would struggle to have any influence at all. One recent example is that of the woman of Turkey who rallied together to post laughing “selfies” in protest of the deputy prime minister who claimed women should not laugh in public. This inspiring display of a nation of women coming together was a great example of social activism and sent a strong and clear message which spread all over the world, gaining global media attention. Result.
Another great example is the #nomakeupselfie which aimed to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I bet you’d struggle to find anyone who wasn’t subjected to seeing their newsfeed f2772956930_c2ce2cf085ull of us women’s beautiful, au-natural faces, am I right? Yep, thought so. The trend was an internet sensation and encouraged women all over the UK to bare it all in the name of charity. The movement was supported from a whole host of famous celebs including Beyonce, Rihanna and Cheryl Cole and raised an astonishing £8million in just six days. If that’s not an excellent and clever use of social media then I don’t know what is.
However, the very latest example of this trend that is currently taking the internet by storm is the ice bucket challenge; aiming to raise awareness and money for ALS, or Motor Neurones Disease as it is known in the UK. Launched by the ALS Association, the array of celebrities to get involved with the campaign so far is astonishing and with a whole host of A-Lister’s still jumping on-board, this is set to be the biggest display of online activism we’ve seen yet. Just to name a few, throwing a bucket of ice water over their head for charity, we’ve seen Mark Zuckerberg, Christiano Ronaldo, Oprah Winfrey, Britney Spears and even George Bush. And with George Bush having just challenged Bill Clinton, things might be just about to get political – could Obama be next?
So it seems social media is now proving a great way of empowering society and is helping to join people together in order to make a positive change, however, like all things, with the good always comes the bad and you will always get those that spoil it for everyone else.
Take the Keyboard Warriors for example, these fine specimen of social media users feel that because they are behind the safety of the computer screen, and can often use a fake alias name, they can say whatever they feel without any consequence. Yes, we’ve all experienced them and all been annoyed by them. Personally, the types that rile me up the most are those that feel the need to bring down others who are actually trying to do something positive. Take the #nomakeupselfie for example, how many people saw a negative comment along the lines of ‘How is uploading picture of your ugly face going to make any difference?’ from a serial keyboard warrior. Well, £8million was raised in total for the cause, so in your face keyboard warrior.
Sadly, there are many cases where internet activism has been used for all of the wrong reasons and as PR Moment pointed out, the use of internet activism can get ugly. Take the London Riots for an example. In 2011 word spread over social media like wildfire and within hours thousands took to the streets of London to riot in protest following the death of Mark Duggan. You know the rest, not a positive use of internet activism at all.
From a PR perspective it’s important to bare this in mind when thinking about your own clients, considering both the positive and negative. Whilst this form of activism could well help a client campaign take off, using the public voice to garner awareness and credibility, you could also find yourself battling a nasty group of aggressive keyboard warriors determined to tarnish your client’s name. I say down with the troll!

About Rebecca Wharmby