Exploring the effectiveness of social media activism

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Student Showcase of Research & Engagement Fall 2019
Woods, Denee
The last ten years have seen the rise and fall of numerous activism campaigns started on social networks, ranging in focus from politics to poverty and receiving varied levels of success. Consequently, many have questioned whether or not social media activism is a truly viable vehicle for social action. By examining the campaigns KONY 2012 and Save Darfur, I consider whether online engagement equates to long-term success. In the case of KONY 2012, excitement about the issue was quick to rise but was not sustained as the campaign's single goal of capturing Joseph Kony remained unreached. Save Darfur gained wide popularity online while raising a large sum of donations, but its success is questionable as research now proves all funds were raised by less than one percent of those following online. This might appear to support the opinion that online activism is not an effective tool for social action. However, these campaigns provide important information about the affordances of these platforms. The research describes a few areas of social activism in which social networks prove incredibly effective. More research is needed to explore how the strengths of social networks can be used strategically in developing successful campaigns in the future.