Clicktivism: Is It Possible to Leverage for PR?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines clicktivism as “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.” It is said that clicktivism emerged in 1997 with the creation of the website MoveOn.org, targeting U.S. citizens to support and participate in progressive in-country campaigns.. Since then, the rise of social and digital media […]

Posted on April 3, 2014 by Almudena Alameda author avatar

The Oxford English Dictionary defines clicktivism as “the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause.” It is said that clicktivism emerged in 1997 with the creation of the website MoveOn.org, targeting U.S. citizens to support and participate in progressive in-country campaigns.. Since then, the rise of social and digital media have allowed for quick and easy support behind an organization or cause. Therefore, This accessibility provided a platform for NGOs and other organizations to start utilizing the internet to drive and promote their campaigns.  Greenpeace is one example where they invited people to sign petitions online. We are also seeing an increase in the number of organizations and citizens leveraging social media to promote change through action. Social collaborative platforms such as Kickstarter make it easy to crowdfund sources.

While Clicktivism has supporters, it also has opponents. Those who support clicktivism think that applying advertising principles, web analytics, etc. increases the impact of a message. They state that thanks to photographs and requests shared on social networks, some injustices and causes are widely spread. One of the best examples of the success of a 2.0 campaign against injustice is Kony 2012 by Invisible Children. The video shows how Joseph Kony recruited children to integrate them into his army. This was uploaded on Vimeo in March 2012 and it became popular worldwide. The video went viral with 3.7 million people pledging their support behind efforts to arrest Joseph Kony and others. On the other side, opponents believe that clicktivism reduces activism to a mere mouse-click, avoiding any real engagement towards a cause. It’s referred to as Slacktivism, which means a social involvement confined to the click of a mouse. Conversely, the Dynamics of Cause Engagement study by Georgetown University’s Center on Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide, points out that slacktivists are more likely to donate, twice as likely to volunteer or participate in offline actions.

Clicktivism

It’s is crucial to choose the relevant causes and coordinate actions efficiently between departments such as PR, marketing and corporate affairs within an organization, so the general public will receive a single message. Therefore, it is possible to take advantage of clicktivism and exploit this online social mobilization phenomenon to improve the reputation of a brand whether directly or joining forces with NGOs. A couple of examples:

  • Pedigree – In partnership with the NGO, PetRescue, the dog food brand Pedigree created “Dog-A-Like” app that matched dogs with potential owners using facial recognition. Once people found a dog-match, they could browse related content. The initiative reached more than 5.8 million Facebook users who pledged 200,000 bowls of dog food in the campaign’s first month. They called it Pedigree’s Adoption Drive which raised awareness of the 100,000 dogs euthanized in Australia. The results included more than 3,500 dogs adopted in the first few months of the program.
  • Askora – Leveraging the World Food Day on the 16th of October, the catering firm Askora asked people to share an Instagram photo of an empty dish including the hashtag #donatuplato (share your dish). In return, for every photo shared  Askora donated food to the NGO Caritas to be distributed. More than 29,000 pictures were shared.

“The things companies have to worry about are much broader than ever before,” stated Daniel Diermeier, professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in a recent Financial Times article.  “We now have higher expectations about what companies are responsible for…but the expectations that companies get involved in social justice and policy issues are now much higher.”

Have you supported an organization or cause through clicktivism? Are you a clicktivist or a slacktivist?

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