Social Media for Social Issues

August 9, 2018

Social Media for Social Issues

August 9, 2018

Next in our series of blog posts from Group Gordon’s summer interns, Tucker Meijer recommends ways to properly leverage your social media platforms for good.

There’s no doubting technology’s influence on all of our lives. The world is at our fingertips, we are more connected than ever, and the dissemination of information can occur within the blink of an eye. We can access this power through a tool that 77% of Americans possess: the smartphone, or, more specifically, the social media apps on it.

Social media has a plethora of uses, including sharing photos, connecting with relatives across the globe, and following breaking news. Here, we’re going to focus on one of the most important uses of social media: to spread awareness of social issues. In the past few years, the ease with which one can use social media to spread awareness about a social cause has increased, from Facebook allowing users to choose a cause to raise money for their birthdays, to 280-character quips about social justice on Twitter. Anyone can use social media as a platform to make a stand, rally support for, or urge action on social issues. Although it’s easy to push the “post” button, it’s challenging to advocate for social causes appropriately and correctly. If you’re thinking about ways to use social media platforms to advocate for social change, here are some important things to keep in mind to do so in a way that will further the cause.

  1. Be authentic

When you’re posting about a social issue, find a cause or issue that you’re truly interested in and passionate about. Keep in mind that posting about every social cause can come across as though you’re just “jumping on the bandwagon.” If you only superficially post about a social issue so that others will think of you as a good person, your posts will come across as insincere. However, if you’re posting about an issue you feel strongly about, the genuine, heartfelt feeling behind the post will shine through and resonate more with your followers.

Elon Musk recently came under fire from the Twitterverse after tweeting about his efforts to get involved in the rescue of the youth soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand. Musk’s series of tweets came across as highly self-promotional and attention-seeking. Twitter users quickly caught on and called Musk out on his disingenuous behavior.

  1. Think beyond intentions to impact

After identifying a cause that’s important to you, the next step is to think carefully about your audience and how your post may be received. That means carefully considering your intentions and the possible impact on those who read your post. While your intentions behind a post may be well-meaning, if you don’t consider the wide range of experiences and different backgrounds of your audiences, the impact (result?) of your post may be to exclude, offend, or trigger some people. Make sure you think through the consequences, since you’re ultimately accountable for what you put out on social media.

The Pancreatic Cancer Association learned this lesson the hard way when they released a controversial ad featuring a woman with pancreatic cancer alongside the quote, “I wish I had breast cancer.” After coming under fire across social media platforms, PCA released a statement defending the campaign’s intention to bring awareness to the high mortality rates of pancreatic cancer compared to other cancers. However, the actual impact of the campaign was that people were angered or offended by a message that some cancers are not as terrible as others.

  1. Be committed to the cause

One all-too-common mistake people make in their social media posts is to engage in “slacktivism:” thinking their job is done once they’ve expressed their views on an issue. If someone is truly interested and passionate about a social issue, then it’s necessary to commit to it for the long term, on and off social media. That means sharing updates on progress or hurdles, making calls-to-action for their followers, as well as acting on the issue in the real world.

A recent example of a true commitment to a cause came from the students of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. After a gunman killed seventeen people at their school, the students took to Twitter and went directly to lawmakers, advocating for stricter gun regulations. Their consistent social media activity, including updates to their cause and calls-to-action, has been incredibly effective in keeping the tragedy from fading from public consciousness.

The Parkland students are the antithesis of “lazy activists,” whose engagement with an issue starts and ends with a single post about an issue before they move on to the next one. Instead, the students have fully utilized the power of social media – a power that allowed them to raise $3.5 million for the March for Our Lives, a protest advocating for stricter gun regulations – to advocate for meaningful change. If you’re thinking about supporting for a cause on social media, look for new ways to stimulate action through and beyond social media, as the Parkland students did.

When used correctly, social media is an incredibly powerful tool to spread awareness and educate audiences about important social causes. If you keep these steps in mind, you can leverage your social media presence for good to help turn the world into a better place.