Social media is making us charity whores
We have all seen the updates on Facebook and Twitter. Long threads of copied and pasted statuses that always have the same format: the setup, the sob story and then the request, something to the effect of “If 1 million people repost this, Little Sally will get a new kidney.” If you are one of the people who incessantly repost these, I am here to say that the only way this helps is if someone saw the status and decided to give up their kidney.
Social media can have a lot of benefits beyond connecting people that would normally never associate with each other. Many charities and organizations have started to utilize social networking to elicit support and more importantly, donations.
Clearly, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Cornell Veterinary major Gabby Wild has been relying on social media to promote her animal conservation campaign “12 in 12 for 12.” The premise of the campaign is that she wears 12 outfits in 2012 that represent 12 endangered animals she is campaigning to save. Aside from Twitter and Facebook, Wild has been utilizing YouTube to update her supporters on the campaign.Each week, she uploads a video to her YouTube page, TheGabbyWild, to showcase the outfit and promote her cause.
“I think it’s really important for people to see me wearing the outfits, and also to know specifics about the animals,” Wild said.
Wild also wants to make sure people are aware that this campaign is not just about fashion, but for people to really know where their money is going. That’s why her website, gabbywild.com, has all of the information about why each animal needs to be saved, as well as information about the charities that donors can support.
While people like Wild have gotten a real handle on how to promote their campaigns, there are a lot of organizations that do not use social media in an effective way. For example, an image was recently circulating the Facebook news feed of the world’s smallest elephant, saying that it was in dire need of support. However, the image gave no information on where to send donations, nor did it provide any information on the animal. The caption only said to “please repost in order to save this animal.” While support can sometimes create enough buzz to truly make a difference, it’s rare that simply clicking “share” will do any measureable good. It almost seems as though this is an easy way for people to feel as though they did some good.
Twitter and Facebook are undoubtedly the largest platforms in which organizations use to promote their charities, mainly because of the widespread nature of both sites. On Twitter, an organization can reach out to millions of followers at a time and send simple, catchy messages while popularizing their cause with hashtags. Facebook, on the other hand, has the capability to be more interactive with users. Organizations can put more information on their pages and post pictures that can add emotional appeal to their causes. With Facebook expanding so rapidly, it is plausible that organizations will be able to make donations right from their fan pages.
What is astonishing about social media is that it is, for all intents and purposes, the future of communications. There is no doubt the internet has changed the way we work and live. It will only continue to be an omnipotent presence in our lives. This medium can be employed in beneficial ways for companies and organizations, but only if used the proper way.
Organizations must realize the potential that social media sites can have, and can use this information to appeal to a younger demographic. However, they cannot be lazy about it, otherwise it simply does nothing of value. Social networking must be strategic, crossing multiple platforms and keeping up with them.
Rachel Maus is a freshman cinema and photography major who “likes” you but isn’t into poking. Email her at rmaus1[at]ithaca.edu.