People are looking for more meaning behind their everyday actions and using social media as a platform to pursue important causes.
In the past five years there hasbeen a significant shift in the way information and, as a direct result, social movements have spread. The Arab spring, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the attack against Charlie Hebdo. Those are just a few of recent news stories that went viral because of social media platforms. The rate at which they spread was a testament to a shift in society that is—to put it simply—demanding more. As evidenced in the social enterprise sector, consumers are becoming more conscious of what they’re buying and what causes they’re supporting, but they are also becoming less tolerant of meaningless clutter.
Turning to social platforms to express their views is a way for people to show how their interests have shifted. When an event goes viral, as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge did for example, it is directly related to the fact that a huge segment of society sees the issue as something they can relate to, and they are looking to embrace the cause and make it their own. This is the same mindset that has propelled social enterprises. “What they’re doing is saying, ‘make this the standard,’” says Melissa Orozco, founder and creative director of Vancouver-based certified B-Corp PR firmYulu.
By employing a new standard of public relations known as Impact Relations, Yulu not only represents social enterprises but also is one itself. Their holistic, community-based approach to brand representation is leading an industry shift away from the typical corporate culture and toward a more human-centric, social climate. To show the good that can come from the age of rapid information sharing and cause awareness, the firm studies current events and proves that the social push behind them is very meaningful. “These aren’t just trends,” says Orozco, “It’s the new normal.”
A public outcry for more was very clear at the 2015 Academy Awards—and social media helped propel the cause initiative that took shape. Instead of the usual “Mani Cam” (a miniature Red Carpet model for actresses to show off their manicures and jewelry in) and “Who are you wearing?” rigmarole, celebrities used the event as an opportunity to move beyond the superficial. For example, Reese Witherspoon took toInstagramto push the #AskHerMore campaign, displaying a series of serious questions that she wanted to be asked, as opposed to the usual Red Carpet inquiries for women about fashion. It was a move that many embraced andsocial media adopted the cause to keepit trending. Lena Dunhamtweeted, “Ask her about the causes she supports, not her support garments#oscars#AskHerMore.” And more recently Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg created aviral videospoofing the frivolous questions the actress is most often asked. At Northeastern University, professor Sarah Jackson'sresearchon social movementshas found that social media has been used to “change and shape public conversations about inequality and social change...It is clear that new technologies have become an integral part of the activist tool kit.”
ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
The ALS Ice Bucket challenge is perhaps the single-most standout viral sensation in recent history. More than 17 million people uploaded their challenge videos to Facebook, and the videos were watched by 440 million people a total of 10 billiontimes. The campaign had all the ingredients that created a perfect storm: It was authentic,started by an individual(as opposed to an organization or agency), was easily sharable on social media, included elements of fun and competition, and supported a meaningful cause. Because of all those elements, it became a phenomenon, raising $115 million and demonstrated how social media can engage the population and create a real impact.
Social media is just one part of the puzzle, but it’s a quantifiable way of showing the younger generation’s desire to be more meaningful in its actions. As the discourse changes so too does consumer behavior and economic patterns. People are aware of the ways they can band together to create change and hold themselves responsible for the way they live and interact as a global community interested in more than just material goods and profit. They are in search of meaning in everything they do, and using their voice in social media and supporting and creating social enterprises are just some of the outlets that help make that desire a reality.
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