“Slaktivism” is a term coined in the early 2000’s that generally means: the act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.(1) In other words, doing something easy that makes “you” feel good rather than doing something that might actually help. Last week a campaign on Facebook started to help raise awareness about child abuse. The goal was to have everyone change their Facebook avatar to a cartoon character. Generally these types of campaigns see limited support, but the combination of a worthy cause and an opportunity for adults to revisit memories of their childhood made the avatar switch an event with the potential to accomplish something.
Call To Action
With any marketing attempt one of the most important aspects is a clear call to action. In this campaign the call to action was vague at best, except for the changing of a profile avatar. The stated goal was to “raise awareness” of a difficult subject, child abuse. This left me wondering, how effective would simply changing your avatar be at preventing child abuse? Or even make more people aware of it? With the way some of the conversations turned on Facebook, I had to wonder if the abuse heaped on people for doing nothing more than “just” changing their avatar, I admit to doing it a bit, was justified or if this now viral action was actually having a positive effect.
Quite a few people were declaring the entire event a useless waste of time. I spotted @sugarrae on Twitter giving to preventchildabuse.org and challenging everyone else to do the same. In a moment of clarity I agreed, sent in my donation and began a campaign across Facebook and twitter challenging others to do the same. On Tuesday I began to wonder, did this moment of slaktivism really make a difference? Or were we really just tilting at windmills making ourselves feel good without actually doing anything meaningful.
I talked with Ben Tanzer at PreventChildAbuse.Org and put the question to him, did this avatar changing drama on Facebook make a difference that they had noticed? While he only had anecdotal data at this point, Ben informed me that they were seeing an estimated 4x boost in donations over the last week. Four Times. Let me say this again, FOUR TIMES their normal donation levels. Ben also pointed me to their blog where they had posted about how they viewed the event.
Awareness Equals Branding
One of the things we preach as marketers is that building your brand is one of the most important things you can do for your business or organization. Anything that you can do to build awareness for your organization improves your brand, even slaktivism. While this may be a unique situation, it may just as easily be the norm for viral slaktivism. Can your organization benefit from a viral campaign like this? Anecdotal evidence says definitely.
So the next time you see a silly campaign happening on Facebook, or any of the social sites, don’t pass it off as a waste of time, study it and and see how you can use a similar campaign to build awareness for you and your brand.