The current big wave of awareness in social good is the hashtag campaign. A natural successor to viral successes like the Ice Bucket Challenge, hashtag campaigns like #MeToo have taken the national spotlight with no sign of slowing down. Where the Ice Bucket Challenge caught attentions with people participating in a fun activity and one upping their friends, current hashtag campaigns take a step back and are reaching broader, beyond a single organization or activity. They open the door for mass awareness and participation in a way we’ve never seen before and are building communities of their own that strive forwards together, building on the campaign’s own success in a self-sustaining cycle.
Susan McPherson, CEO and Founder of McPherson Strategies, joins Blackbaud’s own Rachel Hutchisson in the most recent episode of the sgENGAGE Podcast: A Recipe for Hashtag Activism. Susan and Rachel pull from their experiences with both companies and nonprofits to discuss the influences, successes, and failures of their social media outreach. From connecting with Gen Z to figuring out if a hashtag campaign is even the right fit for your message, these two champions for social good pull apart why (or why not) to use a hashtag campaign.
Noteworthy ideas from the episode:
- The most successful campaigns are not tied to any organization or brand, but rather something greater like an event or cause.
- Social media campaigns are not the right vehicle for every CTA. In fact, unless your organization is directly participating in some form or action, do not use one.
- Not all campaigns are about getting donations. Some are to join a march, sign a petition, or generate a story. Make sure your goal is clear internally.
- Be aware of what platform you use versus what audience you are trying to reach.
From Susan herself on the efficacy of social media campaigns:
“One of the best use cases for social campaigns is when they serve as an organizing platform or a call to action in response to something timely. And more often than not, something that feels urgent. Social media can be an incredible way to scale a reaction, to rapidly organize a message of dissent or awareness about an issue. When we talk about effectiveness, I think there’s no question that many social hashtags or campaigns, say for instance #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter, have been instrumental in putting an issue front and center in our collective consciousness and driving change offline. Many effective social campaigns are generally aligned with offline organizing an action, but there’s also a case to be made for campaigns that are designed first and foremost, degenerate awareness or give people space to share stories. A safe space to share stories. And when social campaigns aren’t effective, it’s often because social wasn’t the best vehicle or the right vehicle for that particular message or because it wasn’t considered to be relevant by online communities or if the campaign gets a lot of attention and seeks to drive action but doesn’t give people clear direction or clear pathway to take action is when we see that they may fail.”
For more on hashtags, social media campaigns, and appealing to Gen Z, listen to the whole podcast episode here: The sgENGAGE Podcast Episode 84: A Recipe for Hashtag Activism