What can we learn from #BringBackOurGirls, Black Lives Matter, and the Ice Bucket Challenge?
On April 14th, of 2014, 276 girls were kidnapped from their boarding school by Boko Haram Terrorists in Nigeria. The hastag #BringBackOurGirls was tweeted over 3.3 million times, and became a uniting cry of outrage around the world. And because of all this sharing, 60% of Top 10 average and 41% of Middle Average were aware of the campaign.
The high awareness of #BringBackOurGirls proves that social media activism (and even slactivism) has a far-reaching impact.
That awareness must have some value – because marketing departments and media planners pay highly for it every day, and most would be pumped if 41% or 60% of anyone knew about their campaign or product.
But with the girls still missing, the reality is that awareness is nothing unless it’s converted to meaningful action.
And converting awareness into action is one area where BlackLivesMatter has been successful.
#BlackLivesMatter was just beginning to take shape in 2014 when this study began, after incidents in Ferguson and Staten Island with Michael Brown & Eric Garner.
I was seeing posts on Facebook in support from many friends, and while at work one night I looked down on Canal Street in lower Manhattan and saw hundreds of people marching in support from downtown to Grand Central. It was both inspiring and motivating to me personally, but I wondered if average people were getting involved.
I learned that a full 26% Top 10 average and 14% Middle Average engaged physically in the cause and 38% Top 10 Average and 20% Middle Average had engaged digitally. (Much higher percentages than just African Americans in those areas.)
And in 2015, the physical participation rates declines and the digital participation rates increased for both Top 10 Average and Middle Average.
And these results were similar for other causes – digital participation was always higher, and with time it increased with physical participation decreased.
Social and digital activism makes people feel good, lets them look good to their friends, and asks little in return. So increasingly causes are recognizing that people are only willing to do so much – and are looking for ways to make easy and fun social action make a real difference.
And the Ice Bucket Challenge is the perfect case study.
While there was nearly universal awareness of the Ice bucket Challenge at the end of 2014, 26% of Top 10 Average did the challenge (the same number of Top 10 Average who engaged physically in Black Lives Matter), and 30% of Middle Average doused themselves with ice.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was successful because they recognized the power that social activism has over people’s willingness to act, and asked a more important question – what will people want to do, and how can we make those social actions make a difference?
By doing this, they turned what might have once been labeled “slacktivism” into a meaningful change agent, raising $220 million globally.
What this means:
And this means that if you really want people to participate, stop creating campaigns and false movements that ask people to do something hard or that they aren’t already doing, and instead make something easy work harder.