People power and social media campaigns

I just read a pretty amazing statistic… do you know how many people covered their profile picture on Facebook with a rainbow flag after the US Supreme Court ruled favourably on gay marriage back in June?

26 million!

Can you believe that? I find it pretty amazing. Of course, the photo editing tool that Facebook launched in order to do it means that there was almost zero effort required to do it, and of course it had no bearing on the ruling itself. But 26 million people standing up and saying they support something is undeniably impressive.

Rainbow filter, Facebook
Rainbow filter, Facebook

Other recent social media campaigns include the outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion, last year’s ice bucket challenge, and (my hero) Stephen Sutton’s bucket list. Prior to social media, the main way to galvanise a huge number of people in a short amount of time was through major fundraising efforts (at huge initial cost, using mainstream mediums) such as Comic Relief and Children in Need. Now, all that is needed is a social media account, an injection of passion, and the content or a topic that will stand out.

So to those 26 million people who changed their profile pictures, well done. Maybe, just maybe, you helped to show that social attitudes are changing, and we’re becoming more willing to be counted in what we agree (or disagree) with.


Today’s News – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

A quick scan of today’s news tells of three stories showing both the good and bad uses of social media.

The Good:

Stephen’s Story – members of the public have been rallied by famous people, including comedian Jason Manford, to help dying teen Stephen Sutton to raise £1million for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The target was part of the ‘bucket list’ created by Stephen as his cancer became inoperable, and currently stands at £1,128,608.29 (as of 1.15pm on Wednesday 23rd April). This show of support presents the good that social media can do in communities and in response to an eloquent and worthy appeal.

To support Stephen:

The Bad:

NYPD Hashtag Disaster – BBC News reported this morning that the New York Police Department encouraged followers to post photos of themselves with local police officers with the hashtag #myNYPD, which was quickly overtaken by users posting photos showing possible police aggression by the force. The NYPD responded with a statement saying “Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”

The Ugly:

Let’s not get started on the tweet sent to a customer from US Airways recently, which is still being investigated…

All of this shows that all social media campaigns should be carefully thought through prior to going live. You should try and consider all possible reactions to the campaign, and even though you can never please everyone, try not to walk into a situation where your brand or company is exposed.