Facebook Likes Don’t Save Lives


Children’s charity UNICEF has hit out with an advertising campaign slamming the way in which Internet users interact with its messaging on social media sites such as Facebook – suggesting that for most users the engagement with the charity starts and ends with the click of a “Like”.

The campaign, created ad agency Forsman & Bordenfors, highlights that although social media campaigns can raise awareness, the fear from UNICEF in Sweden is that members that of the public tend believe that their “Like” creates value – social currency – but it appears to have also contributed to a falling rate in donations being made.   So called “slacktivists” get a sense of accomplishment and participation by liking or sharing a Facebook post or a re-Tweet, but in fact are doing very little at all.  And it’s real hard cash rather than social currency that pays for immunisation and other aid programmes.

Three new adverts ram this message home – making a direct call from the public for cash donations.   In one a 10 year old orphan, left to fend for himself and his younger brother looks to the camera:

“Sometimes I worry that I will get sick, like my mom got sick. But I think everything will be alright. Today, Unicef Sweden has 177,000 likes on Facebook.”

Another of the adverts, ironically being shared and liked widely on social media reads:

“Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.”

Unicef - Likes Don't save Lives

The concerns of UNICEF mirror those raised by the Kony 2012 campaign; a slick You Tube film which was designed to raise awareness, and ultimately bring to justice, the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.   But whilst the You Tube video gains millions of views and was shared widely it didn’t lead to wholesale activism – the lobbying of governments and international organisations.  It ultimately failed.

So the challenge remains for any charitable organisation – spreading the word about your campaigns in a purely superficial way is one thing.  Getting money through the door or getting people to act upon your message in other ways another.

James Barnes,

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