Social Media Campaigns: A Diatribe

This week in class, we looked at social media campaigns. Summary: I am extremely cynical of them. Here are my (personal, subjective) reasons:

  1. They are abundant and their frequency is annoying
  2. I see little evidence of their effectiveness
  3. I have a general distaste for message control and PR Spin
  4. Many are just advertising couched inside positive action
  5. The overlap between campaigns and my contacts is very limited

I’ll expand on each:

  1. They are abundant and their frequency is annoying. The internet is busy. Digital integration means I spend a lot of my time multitasking, getting distracted, and looking at smaller devices.

(xkcd of course)

As a result, I filter. Things that pop up frequently are more annoying, and more likely for me to filter out. Frequency=noise. However, social media campaigns depend on frequency, depend on annoying people enough to break through their filters and be noticed. This is a bad strategy for me as a consumer. If you want to get my attention, post something meaningful, researched, and well developed – but only post it once. If I miss it, too bad. But if I catch it, I’ll pay attention.

2. I see little evidence of their effectiveness. Social media campaigns are everywhere. And the results? Much harder to see. This comes down to slacktivism. I care about things, and I will do hard work to achieve goals that matter to me and to people I respect. Social media campaigns are not effective, hard work.

3. I have a general distaste for message control and PR Spin. This one doesn’t need much expanding on. Message control, and PR spin in general, make me gag. It’s a particularly slimy way to communicate. Social media campaigns are all about spinning messages to their advantage. Often, the underlying causes are worthwhile, but the presentation style makes me want to retch. Soft piano music used to evoke sympathy in me. Now, when it plays in the background, I ask what the video is trying to sell.

4. Many are just advertising couched inside positive action. #BellLetsTalk. Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty. The causes are good. There are some positive results. The companies may even believe in what they’re doing. However, the fact remains – they’re running these campaigns for their own benefit. To support the campaign, I need to support the company. I am opposed to that level of consumer-brand bonding.

5. The overlap between campaigns and my contacts is very limited. I made a Venn diagram for this one:

Made this here

Made this here

I’ve noticed that, with some small variation, the people I know who support one campaign support many campaigns. So! Either a) these people are morally superior, or b) there is a fixed subset of the population who actively participate in social media campaigns. I know many of these people well – I don’t believe them to be morally superior. Therefore, I think it’s option b), and I can choose my level association with this subset. I choose not to associate.


3 thoughts on “Social Media Campaigns: A Diatribe

  1. Thanks for this post. I definitely get where you’re coming from here. One counterpoint: for me, the value of these campaigns is in raising awareness…that is, with exposure, controversial topics become less controversial and therefore more easy to address. So a campaign about mental health, for instance, may not be effective in itself, but the more people see mental health being supported/discussed openly, the more the topics becomes normalized (which then might allow people to ask for help more easily). Thoughts?


    • I agree with you Katia. De-stigmatization is very important, especially around mental health issues, and I think social media campaigns do good work in this area. Take Bell Let’s Talk Day (perhaps the most popular example of a mental health social media campaign): I think it does good work, both in countering stigma and in raising money I participate each year. However, it’s also awkward for me, not because of publicly discussing mental health, but because of the “Bell” in the name. I don’t support Bell as a company. I think the stranglehold of the big three telecom companies in Canada is problematic, to say the least. If it was #LetsTalk Day, I would be 100% supportive. But, with the Bell in front, I hesitate. My tweets raise awareness of mental health issues, but they also act as advertising for a company I don’t support.


  2. Pingback: Why the ‘Activism vs. Slacktivism’ Debate is Irrelevant | Raquel Bellefleur's Professional Portfolio

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