Week Seven – Digital Activism

13 Apr

Activism is not a new movement amongst society; it has been around since people have tried to change behaviour, government laws or company ethics. However digital activism is more of a recent movement, since the internet has increased wide spread. Digital activism is the use of online technology, such as the internet, to “create political and social change” by utilising communities of people who agree with the cause (Joyce, 2010).

I feel that as the use of digital tools are constantly changing, such as social media and more recently mobile technology, the tools are playing a much larger part in how consumers choose to vice an opinion. But is that a good or a bad thing?

By using digital technologies to raise awareness for a certain cause, there are many positives that can come of this:

  1. – The technology triggers hype surrounding the issue
  2. – Discussions become more widespread, through online WOM
  3. – Promotions for events or protests are more likely to have a more wide-spread reach
  4. – A buzz is created

An example that has interested m for a long time is that of the ‘Boycott Nestle’ campaign, which began in 1977 due to Nestle giving out free samples of milk formula to poor mothers in Africa and other third world countries. The mothers quickly adapted to using the Nestle formula instead of breast feeding their babies. As a result of this the mothers breast milk dried up, so they were no longer able to feed their children in this way – then Nestle decided to raise the price of the milk formula, and the mothers could not afford it – as previously it was free. This action by Nestle cause initial uproar from the international community and therefore the boycott Nestle came into play.

When this issue occurred digital activism was not in play – and therefore activism consisted of WOM, protests, posters and press coverage. For an individual to get involved with the protest r boycott the engaged physically with the campaign and got involved because they felt very strongly about it, and as a result the boycott campaign was extremely successful and many people heard about Nestles wrong doings in the third world countries.

Recently Nestle has again been involved with in-human ways of business, the use of palm oil to make their Kit-Kats has damaged rainforests and in turn harmed the Orang-utan‘s who lived in the rainforest. Greenpeace launched an online campaign to raise awareness about this, with the hub being on YouTube and Facebook. A viral video was created of a man eating a Kit-Kat which was seen as the animal’s finger being snapped off. Although over 95,000 people viewed the video, and 150,000 People interacted with the Greenpeace Facebook page – I do question how many people actually properly interacted with the real cause at hand – rather than just re-posting a viral to friends on Facebook due to the gross or shock factor.

As if you compare the physical action of someone stopping on the street – reading a leaflet and signing a protest form, with people just clicking ‘like’ on the Boycott Nestle Facebook page, or re-posting a viral video. Do people properly engage and interact with the issue at hand or just get involved because it’s seen as being caring and politically correct on their Facebook social status?! In general I believe online activism is a positive thing, as it creates the initial hype and buzz a campaign needs to get awareness – however as it is so easy for a user to get involved with clicktivism  (as Micah White, 2010, discusses in his articile on the Guardian website) and not be fully passionate or engaged with the issue – I believe the need for traditional forms of activism are still important and should not be a second thought for marketers when promoting a campaign – as the backbone of a successful activism campaign is when you have people involved who are fully passionate and have a true interest in the issue at hand.

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