In the last ten years there have been hundreds of campaigns for various animal welfare charities from all over the world, most notably organisations such as PETA and WWF which have access to huge marketing budgets. They are able to raise global protests and boycotts with an advert on the TV or newspaper. The landscape of campaigning is changing though, now smaller causes are able to gain huge support using social media platforms to gain followers and exposure. It raises the question though, is this new access to social media a great way to change the world or does it dilute the action of welfare charities with virtual chatter?
Excalibur the Dog…
Let’s use the case of the Spanish government euthanaising Excalibur in 2014, the dog of an Ebola nurse raised 380,000 petition signatures within 24 hours and a further 70,000 to follow shortly afterwards.The hashtag #SalvemosaExcalibur was tweeted nearly 400,000 times(1); imagine how difficult that momentum and exposure would have been without social media as a platform for this? This didn’t create a ‘snowball effect’ – this was an avalanche beyond measure. Although this huge wave of public feeling has the power to shame or guilt organisations into action, Excalibur was still sadly euthenaised.
Whether you agree with the issue at hand is not the point. It is the sheer colossal online backlash it provoked; news is no longer local, it’s global. Isaac Newton once wrote that ‘Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction‘, with social media we have simply magnified this reaction and although it can be very uncontrollable and at times unpredictable this also creates bigger opportunities to voice our concerns of animal welfare across the world.
Yet on the other side of the scale you witness countless petitions, campaigns and appeals for animal rights, from saving a dog to be euthenaised to changing major animal welfare legislations. Many of which are never successful, never create an impact and falls on ears of the already converted. Although the message is often sound, they never achieve their goals and in some occasions create the opposite affect and cause criticism. Why is this?
To put it simply, bad digital marketing. Many are often shared with a relatively close group of people and various charities which fail to give it enough exposure to the outside world. They approach these issues with anger, protest and with very little room for constructive discussion. Once this has been achieved then that potential exposure retracts, dilutes and replaces it with virtual chatter.
Social media creates new opportunities for animal charities across the world. They will be potentially open to a much wider audience, wider exposure and bringing in extra revenue to continue what they do best. They need to use it effectively and use it to their advantage to boost campaigns.
Not only with campaigning; finding lost animals, rehoming homeless pets to potential owners, teaching and educating the public about the responsibilities of owning a pet. With this combined, thousands, if not millions have been saved. Imagine, changing the lives of millions of animals with a little know-how on the comfort of your own home sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea.
The great thing about this is that you do not have to have a multi million dollar budget in order to do this, just clever analytical social media experience, target your audience, use the right approach and create that exposure. Ensure that you are hitting the right audiences as well as the proper backing and there is no limit to how expansive your campaign can be.
The Future of Campaigning
Social media is here to stay and it will continue to grow as it has done since it’s birth. What do we do with this, what is the next step? We must embrace it, understand the rules and use it to our advantage. Instead of banners in Trafalgar Square, we use hashtags, instead of blocking up town square, we get a topic trending on Facebook and Twitter. There will always be a place for campaigning in groups in town but with the growing use of social media the way we look at making a difference has changed.
Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 civil rights supporters(2). It is said that Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous Gettysburg Address infront of 15,000 people(3). Imagine how explosive those speeches would have been if social media was around at that time, could it have changed the world as we see it today? Quite possibly.
My last appeal for a lost dog on Twitter was retweeted 248 times in the space of a few hours. If every one of those accounts have an average of 1,500 followers including my 20,500+ followers that tweet would potentially reach an audience of approxamately 392,500 people. 24 hours after this the dog was found wondering the local train station and brought home safely.
Social media is a tool, and like most tools you can learn how to use it to your advantage or abuse it. Whether you agree with it or not a new direction of campaigning is here, let’s make a difference – one hashtag at a time.
Hansen, D, D. (2003). The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins. p. 177 (2)