Have you ever dreamed of going viral?
No, don’t worry—I’m not talking about something you need to see your doctor for. I mean going viral on social media, where your message is shared over and over to a huge audience. This can also be called Social Media Mobilization.
It’s no secret that going viral is every social media user’s dream. Well, usually. I can think of a few instances where that might not be the best idea—I think we’ve all seen a few things on Facebook we’d have rather not—but, in general, going viral is a good thing.
But how exactly does a social media campaign go viral?
Facebook Breast Cancer Memes
To help us answer that, let’s take a quick look at a set of Facebook memes that circulate every year during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You might remember a particularly popular meme in which women were asked to write a status that just stated their name and the color of the bra they were wearing, such as “Sarah, blue.”
The main goal behind the meme, of course, was to raise awareness for breast cancer but in a fun way—it was essentially a “secret message” game in which the basic idea was for women to confuse their male friends with these strange statuses.
Multiple versions of this meme were created, some more sexualized than others. All of them were designed to go viral and go viral they did.
The question now becomes: were they really successful in achieving their goal?
The Downside of Diffusion-centric Campaigns
This is where the waters get a little muddy.
The Facebook memes are great examples of cyberactivism. But is this type of cyberactivism really effective?
Many would argue that it’s not. Let’s not forget, after all, that the goal of a good social media campaign is to change human behavior. For cyberactivism to be truly successful, they have to be linked to real-life actions. In that light, how effective were the Facebook memes?
It’s all about creating real life experiences for your audience.
As humans, we love to be involved with good causes. It makes us feel all warm and tingly to think that we’re helping out the greater good.
But we’re also a little on the lazy side. If all it takes to “help out” is to push a “like” button or send out a status update, then we’re all in!
The Facebook memes demonstrate this all too well. You might ask (and rightfully so) how random likes or vague status updates (also called slacktivism) could actually help anything. They certainly don’t lead to any type of real-life action that might actually benefit finding a cure for the disease.
Memes like this can also disseminate false information. The Facebook breast cancer memes had the added negative side-effect of spreading the myth that women are the only ones that suffer from breast cancer. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, men can get it, too. It’s rare, but it happens and is no less important.
So how does a successful social media mobilization campaign work?
The Lesson: A Recipe for Success
Now, the above doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to learn from the Facebook breast cancer memes. To the contrary, there are two big lessons to be learned from them:
- They were fun and personalized
- A viral campaign needs to inspire the audience to a real-life action
These two points are something anyone can use when designing a social media campaign that they want to go viral.
In addition, Forbes also lists three key aspects of effective cyberactivism. Their advice is to identify the campaign’s goals, cultivate and maintain your support base, and understand how social media will impact your campaign. Heck, getting involved in someone else’s campaign is an even better way to learn the ropes!
And it doesn’t stop there. A quick Google search successful cyberactivism campaigns will yield thousands of examples to learn from. In fact, I’m going to leave you with this article by Cindy Xu, who works in Cornell University’s Social Media Lab. Her discussion of going viral using social media activism is absolutely on point!
Now, how about you? Are you planning a social media campaign? What are your plans? Leave a note in the comments!