Social media is without a doubt one of the most powerful mediums of communication. Increasingly, the youth have found a “voice” in raising political and social issues that have come to the fore. When national disasters or tragedies strike, social media is the first to break the news and netizens all there to spread and receive and spread it again.
The # explosion, thanks to social media
In recent years, Africa has seen very successful social campaigns that have gone viral internationally, and the most successful recent examples are #FeesMustFall (2015), #BringBackOurGirls (2014) and #StopKony (2012).
#FeeMustFall – a student protest campaign – first started at Wits University in October 2015 and spread like wild fire across all the other main South African institutions of higher learning, gathering momentum that extended into early 2016. What sparked this campaign was the announcement of proposed fee increases by the various institutions, and it went on to make news headlines across the continent.
Our study found that #FeesMustFall became the second most popular hashtag in South Africa last year. While the hashtag both originated in South Africa and represented domestic events, its use spread widely throughout the continent – How Africa Tweets 2015
#BringBackOurGirls, a social cry for the return of over 200 Chibok school girls who were kidnapped at a Nigerian government school by Boko Haram in April 2014, trended globally and even caught the eye the First Lady of America Michelle Obama, who took to social media expressing her support for the movement and added momentum to the hashtag.
It took the First lady of the leading country to get more celebrities, supporters and the “entire” world to pay attention and listen to the cries of the Nigerian communities.
It also took an international award – winning singer and songwriter, Rihanna’s tweet about a film called Stop Kony to help raise awareness campaign about child soldiers and child exploitation in Uganda to go viral.
Watch a short video of the campaign.
This raises a question – are Africans doing enough? There are many unheard African tragedies that happen almost daily but are still unheard of. We need to tell our own stories and own them in the process, as social media along with the use of smartphones have afforded us the flexibility and convenience of storytelling.
3 tips that make social media campaigns go viral
- Tap into Passion – Viral movements are always sparked by emotions. Tap into the public campaigns or social issues as they are bound to spark conversation and create awareness.
- Enlist celebrities and influencers – Involving celebrities in a campaign is almost guaranteed to create awareness and grab the attention of the masses faster, if it appeals to the targeted celebrities and they participate in sharing it with their throngs of followers.
- Visual media – Through the use of Smartphones a content piece can be more amplified. A video or picture showing the effect of a natural disaster or tragedy easily sparks some sort of emotion and will be shared faster than text.
There is no denying the power of the internet to bring awareness to social and political issues globally. Social media can be made a vehicle of activism and bring about the desired change and justice that Africa needs – all we need to do is find our voice.