Slacktivism, usually the signing of online internet petitions, Facebook and social media campaigns, and often commercial efforts including T-shirt, bracelet or ribbons sales, is often defined as merely a feel-good measure that requires little personal effort or sacrifice on the part of an individual that has little practical impact in actually helping the involved cause. That common perception perhaps does a disservice to online activism, which is about grassroots communications. After all, the Arab Spring that was celebrated a year ago was created by the same technologies of Facebook, Twitter and the tools of traditional slacktivism.
If we agree that the tools aren’t the problem, then what is?
My dad always told me that the right action leads to the right result. Apply that theory to marketing and it starts with making the right ask.
Some PR pros, social media strategists, cause-marketers and others integrating online tools into their communication toolbox still struggle to show value. It’s hard to measure changes in behavior, a frequent cause-marketing goal. So, campaigns are judged on metrics more easily quantified, including likes, retweets, and clicks, etc. If these “engagement metrics” determine a campaign’s perceived success or failure, then the campaign’s strongest call to action will focus on driving online engagement. And, that’s the problem … which brings us back to slacktivism.
Instead of complaining about lazy slacktivists and a generation of people who aren’t willing to do more than “like” or retweet something, marketers need to look in the mirror: If we’re not providing a strong call to action equipping online audiences to contribute in a more meaningful way, then aren’t we to blame?
Technology has the power to scale social good. We saw it with the Arab Spring and Japan earthquake. I experienced it in Haiti and with a homeless shelter. But, for us to realize the potential of technology as a real driver of change, we must be smarter. Marketers need to think beyond likes. If we’re limiting our ask to something as generic as “Please Share,” we shouldn’t expect impactful action.
Marketers: To excel in the social wold, understand that better asks will lead to better action. Give it a try and see how technology can scale social good.