Anytime something major pops off in the news or there is some type of message that a celebrity or a company utilizing the help of a celebrity is trying to push in order to bring awareness to, the modern day default method of spreading the word to the masses is to create a hashtag campaign. For those of you who are unfamiliar with exactly what a hashtag is, a hashtag is simply typing the pound symbol (#) with a word or phrase with no spaces immediately following the symbol like such: #SupportTheOnyxTruth. When a hashtag is used in conjuction with a social media site such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Google+, the hashtag categorizes that status update or image which thereby allows it to possibly be seen by countless millions whom are searching for content within that category via their social media network of choice. Think of it as sort of search engine similar to Google but mainly intended to be used on social networks. So if I were to type in the hashtag #SupportTheOnyxTruth on any social network (or any search engine as well), I should be able to view countless status updates & images that have been placed into the #SupportTheOnyxTruth category very quickly. Now, to my current knowledge, there is not a #SupportTheOnyxTruth hashtag floating around yet, but feel free to support the site out of pure love anyways. 🙂
What Are Hashtag Campaigns?
Hashtag campaigns are social media campaigns created by celebrities or companies designed to bring awareness either to a brand, an issue in the news, or to help promote an agenda of sorts. The idea is to create a unique & catchy hashtag that addresses one of the previously mentioned entities with the idea of hoping the campaign goes viral. If the campaign goes viral that usually means a few million people are retweeting & reposting status updates & images that have that hashtag directly linked to it. A secondary goal of a hashtag campaign is to have millions of social media users create their own online content that is linked to the specific hashtag. The ultimate goal of a hashtag campaign is to basically have everybody talking about the “issue” in real time which can be accurately measured & tracked in real time by social media content aggregators. These content aggregators can then mine this information to measure either the success or failure, the impact or lack of an impact, which can be directly related to possible future revenues for either the company or the celebrity. It’s pretty much the new (yet cheaper) version of running radio, TV, magazine, & billboard ads.
Some recent & fairly popular hashtag campaigns in recent months are:
#BringBackOurGirls – Campaign designed to bring awareness to the almost 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The campaign featured First Lady Michelle Obama.
#BanBossy – Campaign designed to empower young girls by removing the negative stigma attached to young women whom developed leadership traits. The campaign was also lead by international superstar Beyonce.
#RapeCultureIsWhen – Campaign designed to educate people on the many misconceptions of what constitutes rape & sexual assault on women and men.
and my personal favorite…
#FreeBoosie – Campaign designed by a bunch of hoodrats, gerbils, swamp donkeys, & pigeons with the intentions of bringing awareness to the incarceration of one of hip hop’s worst rappers by the name of Lil’ Boosie.
But Do These Campaigns Work?
The only real way to analyze as to whether or not a hashtag campaign has worked is to measure if the campaign went viral or not. Are enough people tweeting, retweeting, posting, or reposting updates & images linked to that hashtag? If so, then yes the campaign worked. Very few of these campaigns can track their success in terms of measuring if people are taking real action in the offline world such as rallying, organizing, or marching. One such campaign that could be viewed successful in inspiring people to get up and do something is the #100Cities campaign designed to bring awareness to the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial in regards to the death of Trayvon Martin. This campaign lead by Rev. Al Sharpton encouraged people from all over the country to march & protest the verdict peacefully and to also address the issue of racial profiling in America. But these campaigns are rare & far and few in between.
What really happens in the majority of these campaigns is simply to bring awareness to an issue…that’s it. Somebody feels there’s something pertinent that needs to be addressed, they create a narrative around the issue, the usually seek out the aid of a celeb or company with a massive online following (probably break them off some money too), create the hashtag, get the celeb to push the message, and BOOM….hopefully their issue goes viral. The downside, most people aren’t going to do anything beyond the casual retweet or repost to help bring awareness to the message. Reposting & retweeting almost sort of becomes an expected online behavior once you begin to see these messages popping up in your newsfeed a few times per day. Yet, just as quick as the campaign began, its buzz in most instances will fade just as fast because when dealing with people and their behaviors strictly in the online world, most people possess an attention span of only a few seconds. We can’t necessarily blame people for having such short attention spans due to the fact that when we partake in socializing online, the average person is bombarded with status update after status update & picture after picture. After a while, everything begins to look & sound the same. So a person might develop an initial interest in the #SupportTheOnyxTruth campaign, but if the issue isn’t pressing to the point where the issue being promoted can possibly literally impact someone’s life in the real world, then it simply becomes a “cool for the moment” campaign that’s here today & gone tomorrow.
I writing this piece really to address the impact of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and how truly effective can it be. The campaign has worked in bringing this issue to the forefront of the media, but….how is this campaign actually helping to bring these girls back to their families in the real world? For me, a hashtag campaign of this magnitude should not be a here today gone tomorrow type of campaign. This type of campaign should be designed to bring the issue to the minds of the world hopefully in an effort to get the powers that be to bring action to the real world to actually bring these young women back home. Just like how Rev. Al Sharpton caused hundreds of thousands if not millions of people to peacefully protest on July 20, 2013 in response to the George Zimmerman verdict with his #100City campaign; so too should the #BringBackOurGirls campaign inspire people with the actual means to step up and do something in the offline world besides just trying to win over the hearts & minds of the online world.