Harnessing Social Media to Effect Change

BlogHer Original Post

Back in high school, I walked door to door with my boyfriend petitioning for Tibetan rights. It took us an afternoon to cover a street or two, and most people we approached were (1) cranky to have been pulled out of an activity at home and (2) weren't interested in discussing Tibetan rights with two teenagers. And therein was the problem with door to door canvasing on a topic that isn't on a lot of people's minds (as opposed to, let's say, the upcoming election). We were hitting everyone and anyone vs. targeting people who were interested in what we had to say and wanted to get involved. And it took a long time to go to each house, not using our time effectively because people often weren't home.

Enter the Internet.

The Internet hasn't replaced all those traditional grassroots means for getting word out about a cause and rallying people together to react, but it has certainly enhanced people's ability to mobilize. The message is taken in during a time that works with the receiver's schedule. You can reach an enormous amount of people at once. And, most importantly, people become more invested because they aren't just signing their name and moving on; they can take an active role, forwarding the message to others.

There are plenty of large and small activism campaigns we can analyze in order to see what works or doesn't work. On the viral end, we have the current KONY 2012 message. Whether or not you agree with the methods, it is clearly an effective campaign in getting the message out there. Their half-hour YouTube video has gotten over 73 million views since March 5th (yes, in one week).

On the smaller end is last year's online campaign by the infertility community spearheaded by Keiko from The Infertile Voice to ask PETA to remove their win a vasectomy campaign for National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW). RESOLVE, the national infertility organization, lent their weight and with blog posts, emails, letters, and Tweets, bloggers managed to get PETA to hear their voice and the animal rights organization removed all references of NIAW from their website.

Mamavation has literally walked through a successful campaign step-by-step to explain how they harnessed social media to get the Strong 4 Life campaign to take down billboards.

Close to 700 mom & dad bloggers, fitness professionals, Registered Dietitians, doctors and other concerned bloggers rallied together for a common cause–The end of shame. We demanded the Strong 4 Life campaign take down billboards we believed created an environment in Georgia that perpetuated bigotry, increased bullying in schools, and “weight bias.” We all joined hands virtually and stood up against a non-profit with over 50 million at their disposal because they were wrong in thinking that it was okay to shame a child into better health.

Ever wondered how people use the Internet to effect change? This post above is invaluable to understanding how to run a successful campaign.

How have you harnessed the power of the Internet and used it to create change?

Photo Credit: Activist via Shutterstock.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.


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