As social media emerges as a powerful tool for branding and marketing, its great power to pioneer change and transform lives often gets overshadowed. What sort of a role can social media play in bringing about social change? How, if at all, can it be used for non-profit campaigns?
Every nation has its own set of issues and India’s issues range from terror strikes, social unrest, corruption, lack of safety in public spaces, road rage, drunken driving, to dangerous circumstances for women and children. Having said that, there are still a number of issues I may not have listed here, which could still be pressing issues for us as citizens of this country.
Pioneering social change is easier said than done, but what really makes a difference is getting the word out. This is where social media has emerged as a big platform. Today, you can set up a Facebook page, a Twitter handle or write a blog to be able to garner public attention and support. Whether it is rape, alcoholism, spurious products, or corrupt officials, everyone somewhere has experienced the same and would be willing to pledge support. Taking social change beyond raising funds to a level where it ignites minds across the country is what counts, and this is where social media comes in.
Here is a look at 5 social media campaigns in the non-profit arena, who have created a real life impact and truly made a difference:
As victims of corruption, many of us might have experienced despair and frustration. We might have even wished that we could have done something about it, but failed to do anything. So when Anna Hazare took up the fight against corruption, social media added unprecedented power to the drive. With over 5 lakh fans on Facebook and occupying a position in the top list of trending topics in India during his fasting period, Anna Hazare was able to gather the support of millions across the nation and the globe online and offline. The campaign brought the Indian youth on the streets and managed to sustain the interest of people online while keeping the actual spotlight on the epicenter of the issue–the Lokpal bill.
When New Delhi came to be known as the ‘Rape Capital’ of the country, few of us did more than gripe about it and express concern over the safety of women in the city. However, Umang Sabharwal decided to do more than just that. She created a Facebook event which called for a Slutwalk in the city. The campaign drew a lot of support, but also attracted its fair share of criticism from activists and journalists. When merely five hundred ‘slutwalkers’ showed up for the actual event against the 30,000 who clicked as attendees on the event page, the numbers did not seem to be convincing. But in the face of the threat by the Sangh Pariwar and despite limited permission by the Delhi Police, they successfully walked around Jantar Mantar on 30th July, 2011.
The Domestic Violence Act might not have generated as much of a buzz as the Bell bajao campaign did. This campaign changed the popular perception to domestic violence, particularly for many men and boys. The campaign didn’t simply encourage people to come out of the closet of abuse on their blogs, but also inspired tweeple to live report incidents of violence in their neighbourhood or places like canteens, restaurants and the gym.
Should any of us be faced with a tragedy like a bomb blast in the city or a large scale accident the Mumbai blasts, social media endeavors to help us deal with the catastrophe. The hashtags #heretohelp #needhelp went viral along with a Google document which contained crowd sourced information like phone numbers for blood types for donations, blood bank numbers, lifts, addresses for accommodation, nearby hospitals, police control rooms, names of missing persons etc. Tweeple moderated the open source sheet to edit out information that seemed fake or malicious. This endeavor brought relief to many afflicted by such events.
60th Earth Hour
A globally imported campaign, this had the widest reach and was successfully implemented in India. Five million Indians attended public gatherings while residences, hotels, government offices and commercial centers switched off their lights in 65 cities. The difference in this campaign was that it was a big budget endeavour, endorsed by a non-profit in India. Factors that made it outstanding: simplicity, potential ‘virality’, lack of frills and controversy. It succeeded due to its ability to make people be a part of the “change”.
More recently, the Delhi gang rape had celebrities as well as common people expressing their angst over the issue. It made people aware, triggering a movement which revolved around the safety of women in India. Tweets, Facebook posts and updates all worked together to generate a buzz and making people aware of this pressing issue.
All in all, the power of social media to kindle the fire within people to participate in social change is one that cannot be underestimated. Hopefully, these examples will help us think about how we can be the “change” we would want to see in this world.