2017 ushered in so many brand fails along with political and sexual harassment news that the bright spots of social campaigns and solidarity movements were a welcome respite. Even if social media campaigns often originate in climate or social crises, many of them play out positively on social media. Here are 2017’s best social campaigns that brought smiles to our faces and our fists to the air. (And you might want to check out 2017’s best infographics too.)
Whew! A lot has happened on social media in 2017! Where social media was once a place for broadcasting views and connecting with friends, this year has seen social media continue its evolution into a tool for social campaign promotion. We saw how health-related hashtag campaigns made an impact last year, so what’s different about 2017?
Celebrities and Influencers have, in record numbers, taken to using social media and hashtags to either promote the causes they’ve started or to amplify the social movements that they believe in. Instead of starting and keeping these campaigns on social, they often announce the hashtag campaign on television, but the effects of their advocacy and the social campaigns themselves take place on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Facebook. In this way, the campaign’s message is exponentially amplified.
In the age of social media, it’s important to remember that what we’re seeing on celebrity and influencer social media accounts are highly staged, edited, cropped, and filtered. Not to mention the team of make-up artists, stylists, interior decorators, lighting crew, and photographers who are only slightly off-camera, next to the piles of laundry, screaming kids, and pets that are running amok.
Kaitlyn Bristowe, an influencer/celebrity and former Bachelorette started the #Realstagram tag that became a movement among other influencers and celebrities to keep perspective on how deceiving images on Instagram can be.
Bristowe understands how much it takes to look “effortless” and “every day”, so her tag reaffirms what reality actually looks like. It’s a few blemishes without fake eyelashes and brushed hair without extensions and mostly, it isn’t well-lit by a photographer’s assistant.
She’s doing it for young people who might think what they see on Instagram is an (easily) obtainable reality. The idea is that by interspersing these real images between staged images, she’ll drive the message home that much of what is enviable on Instagram is fantasy. Possibly blunting the effects of feeling like you’re not matching up to others’ imagined faces, bodies, wardrobes, and lives.
Fellow Bachelor contestants such as Becca Tilley and Jade Tolbert joined in as well.
The powerful tag has been used 8300 times to show the messiness and imperfections of real life since it’s launch this past summer. With such powerful influencers taking part, it’s bound to continue record growth in 2018.
Another organic social campaign that caught fire this year is #DeleteUber. We’ve previously covered why Uber is one of the biggest brand fails this year, but this particular tag is most closely connected to Uber’s self-promotion during a NYC taxi strike in response to Trump’s immigration policy that effectively resulted in a “Muslim” ban. No matter Uber’s actual intent, the public perception is that they hoped to profit from an anti-Muslim policy that affected a competing industry.
One of the most prescient social movements of 2017 was the #womensmarch. The worldwide protest took place during inauguration weekend, on January 21, 2017. The timing was largely in response to Donald Trump being sworn in as President of the United States. Since Trump had previously (and during the campaign) made statements that are distinctly anti-women.
— Katherine #TeamSourCream Locke (@Bibliogato) January 21, 2017
The (worldwide) Women’s March in 2017 ended up being the largest single-day protest in U.S. history and has spanned additional hashtags, including #WomensMarchonWashington, #WhyIMarch, and #IMarchFor. And, can arguably, be tied to the #MeToo hashtag movement, as well as planted the seed that resulted in Merriam-Webster choosing feminism as the word of the year.
If anyone can get people behind singing for a cause, it’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda, known for the most popular musical of all time, Hamilton, launched #Ham4All to raise money for Immigrants: We Get the Job Done Coalition. And so began the epic #Ham4All tag, and we mean EPIC! People were asked to donate $10 while also recording themselves singing their favorite song from Hamilton and tagging the results on social media. To spread the campaign, participants were also encouraged to challenge friends to record their own versions in an effort to win Hamilton tickets and a meet-and-greet with Miranda himself.
Much like 2014’s Ice Bucket challenge, celebrities, including Ed Helms, Kristen Bell, Kelly Clarkson, Ben Stiller, Steph Curry, and much more recorded and shared their efforts with the #Ham4All tag. Using the tag on social meant taking on the mantle of broadcasting the positive message of immigrants’ contributions to America.
One of the more recent social campaigns of 2017 was #PuberMe, which raised money for Hurricane relief in Puerto Rico. Stephen Colbert and Nick Kroll launched the campaign to encourage celebrities to post photos of themselves during their awkward teen years. For every celebrity that participated, the Americone Dream Fund promised to donate $1000. That amount was matched with donations from Kroll and his colleagues from his Netflix show, Big Mouth, as well as Colbert and CBS executives, raised one million dollars for Puerto Rico relief.
In many ways a progeny of the #womensmarch, the #Metoo hashtag, popularized by Alyssa Milano, acted as a stone on a lake, causing reverberations of resignations, firings, policy change, and lawsuits across so many industries, from tech to entertainment to mainstream media to politics. Based on the 2006 “Me too” movement started by Tarana Burke, the slogan’s original purpose was to acknowledge the pervasiveness of abuse in society.
The hashtag was used as a rallying call after Harvey Weinstein (and before him Cosby, Trump, as well as Venture Capitalists: Justin Caldbeck and Dave McClure) was exposed as a rapist/sexual harasser, and abuser of women, whose careers he had the power to affect. Milano knew about the original Burke slogan and repurposed it to illustrate how widespread misogynistic and harassing behavior (let alone abuse) is a reality for so many (women). She encouraged those affected to tweet and publicize their experiences. The hashtag’s use has become so ubiquitous that Twitter created an icon of multicolored raised hands to accompany its use in tweets. (Hashtag emoji icons usually only appear in branded hashtags for events like the Super Bowl or purchased by brands for campaigns, such as Dove.)
As PR and marketing pros, dissecting viral social campaigns are always on our to-do list. Beyond working with influencers (we, at least understand how important that is), the recipe is still elusive. However, the first step to success might be benchmarking your industry to spot trends that work and the next could be scanning keyword searches in your media intelligence platform to see what works for others, adjusting the formula for your brand, experimenting with what seemingly works, and discarding what doesn’t.
This year, as with the last five, many movements and funding campaigns have originated on social media. Whether cash or time-strapped, using social channels with their inherent viral nature has enabled countless causes to raise awareness and millions of dollars in donations. 2018 Is likely to bring more of the same as social platforms add new functionality and campaign strategists design programs to match.