fresh thinking

Are social media buttons an effective way to support global issues?

Dhanya Menon, 29th January 2018

Social media today is considered as the most effective tool as it grabs the attention of the desired target market within 'one screen'. In an age where our phones are constantly buzzing with notifications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat, it sometimes blurs the lines between the personal and the professional. Social media has become an addiction.

Such extensive social media usage highlights how people have a reduced attention span. What goes up on these media platforms will not be remembered for long. Although it is effective for mass reach, it is also often diluted with other onlinedistractions. For today's 'always on' generation, a swipe on the screen brings up a myriad of news stories from different parts of the world. There is an urge to prove that they care for a global cause and want to be a part of it - many enrolling for the movement by liking and sharing the story or forwarding messages to their friends.

But what after? Is this the furthest step anyone would take in the nearfuture?

Take for instance the campaign, "Liking Isn't Helping" that was created for Crisis Relief Singapore, a Christian disaster relief organisation run by volunteers.

It is a powerful ad campaign that was created by Publicis Singapore, an advertising giant, featuring tragic images of crisis from different parts of the world. Each image has a real-life situation surrounded by hands, holding the thumbs-up sign as a way to show theirsupport.

Lily Devins, who was then a New Business Executive for Publicis Singapore, was contacted to elaborate more on the strategy that went behind this campaign. She mentioned that the work was born out of the insight that, showing an acknowledgement or sympathy for a real disaster on social media, does not create enough of a difference to the people affected. When one like's a photo on Facebook, there isn't much action that follows after. She explained, "It's as good as putting a thumbs up to a real scenario without really helping them."

The campaign focuses on the fact that, people generally acknowledge or show their sympathy for those affected in a disaster by 'liking', but their concern only goes so far. This doesn't help anybodyexceptcreate a sense of awareness among the people who 'liked' the story. Clearly, we're in a hurry to like posts and messages but just as quick to jump to the next thing that's on our newsfeed.

Maryanne Gaitho, who wrote, 'What is the real impact of social media?' on simplilearn.com, has mentioned that social, ethical, environmental and political news would have no hope of reaching the hands of masses without the help of social media. She goes on to explain the flip side of the platform, which is, it strips the essence of real activism and replaces it with 'slacktivism', a word coined for a millennia's dictionary. Slacktivism is simply the practice of supporting a cause, virtually, through tools on social media without being committed to the real deal.

Campaigns such as Publicis's are designed to challenge and inspire people to be more proactive and take action to help those inneed. For those that paid attention, and I speak for myself and my colleagues, I believe it drove home two key messages: (i) the action of engaging with a post is more guilt driven than pure compassion, and (ii) lending a helping hand usually means doing more than just liking a story on social media.

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