The Power of Social Media

October is Breast Cancer Awareness and Domestic Violence Awareness month. I wouldn’t have known that on exactly October 1st if it wasn’t for social media. Yes, there are other forms of news sources like television (who even watches TV anymore though with Netflix?), Google, newspapers, and so on. But, when it comes down to it, social media is the ultimate winner for the latest news and trends. Call me biased because I’m a social media junkie, but I can’t even begin to name the amount of times I’ve seen social media have a powerful influence on a cause.

Take for example The Salvation Army. In March, they created a campaign for domestic violence awareness that went viral. Remember how? They used RTC (Real Time Content) by jumping on the bandwagon for trending topics. At that point, #TheDress was trending. Then, the picture below went viral. The Salvation Army transformed a funny piece of content to an important message. Seriously, how cool is that?! Personally, this was one of my favorite campaigns thus far.

Needless to say, social media is powerful, fast, accessible, fun, and creative. Throughout my life I’ve learned to utilize different social media platforms. I’ve dabbled with different apps to see which one I liked the best or to see which one most of my friends were using so I could promote an event.

How does social media help with exposure? 

Given that both of these topics are serious, it can be difficult to spread awareness (and have people paying attention) without throwing a ton of facts and information at your audience. Additionally, these are two sensitive topics that people struggle with when it comes to public speaking.

That’s where social media comes in.

Social media is fun. Take a disease like breast cancer that effects thousands of men and women all over the world. Now combine the facts and statistics of breast cancer with Photoshop (or any photo editing software) and you have a creative campaign like the one below. Social media allows you to be creative and imaginative when it comes to presenting information to an audience.

Hashtags add another fun component to social media platforms (like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) while raising awareness, but I’ll talk more about that later.

Social media is instant. easy, and accessible. Anyone can easily post a photo on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to share with their audience in a quick minute or two. This content is also readily available for others to possibly share on their own page, if they really like it. For example, the image shown below not only helps spread breast cancer awareness, it’s also likable and relatable content – especially for women. If I see an image that appeals to me, like this one, I will tag my friends (on Instagram). If I really like the content then I’ll get my nails done in a similar manner. Once that’s done, I’ll want to Instagram my nails to show them off to the world. This is a simple explanation of how social media trends go viral.

Almost everyone uses social media, so naturally it’s the first step to raise awareness with the large audience base available. Your audience is limitless when it comes to sharing content online. Take advantage of it.

What  are the foundations doing this year? 

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation provides multiple resources on how you can help. The opportunities range from donating to the foundation to starting or joining a fundraiser.

There are also some great apps out there for information and awareness on Breast Cancer. Breast Cancer: Beyond the Shock  is one app that provides a guide to understanding breast cancer. It provides resources for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, for loved ones to gain a better understanding of the disease, and for doctors to share information.

Another app, Early Detection Plan: Breast Cancer, provides information that helps people detect the disease in its early stages. The National Breast Cancer Foundation’s Early Detection Plan (EDP) enables you to be proactive about your health by reminding you to perform routine breast self-exams and to schedule clinical breast exams and mammograms.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence provides many resources for victims, survivors, and friends/family members of victims and survivors and how you can get involved in the cause. They are also holding a week of action from October 19 – 23 to raise more awareness.

I also recently discovered a really cool campaign organized by Verizon. It’s called Hopeline® and Verizon is collecting no-longer used wireless phones, batteries,chargers and accessories in any condition from any service provider to benefit victims and survivors of domestic violence. Verizon donates wireless phones, complete with voice and text capabilities, to local domestic violence shelters and non-profit organizations and agencies for use by victims and survivors. Verizon’s goal is to connect survivors of domestic violence to vital resources since these phones will serve as a link to support services and provide a safe line of communication to family, loved ones, and employers.

The One Love Foundation is also currently promoting their organization. Their #ThatsNotLove Campaign video is going viral. It’s extremely powerful and accurately portrays how emotionally abusive relationships are romanticized and how we can (and need to) end domestic violence.

Here is another campaign that aims to raise public awareness and engage bystanders around ending domestic violence and sexual assault. There are also many information and resources online on how to respond to and prevent sexual assault.

Trending Hashtags

As I said earlier, hashtags add another fun component to platforms while spreading awareness about causes. Once a hashtag catches on or appears on many peoples’ posts, it might eventually become a trending tag. This is how you can introduce your cause to the world.

Here are the current trending hashtags for Breast Cancer Awareness month: #BreastCancerAwareness, #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth, #SaveTheTatas, #Pink, #ThinkPink.

And these are the trending hashtags for Domestic Violence Awareness month: #31n31, #DomesticViolence, #EndTheSilence, #DVAM2015, #ThatsNotLove, #DVAwarenessMonth. #PurpleThursday, #NoMore, #ItsOnUs, #BreakTheSilence.

How you can utilize these ideas for your next campaign?

See what’s currently trending, see what people tend to like & not like, and study your audience. Most importantly, remember to ask yourself: “would I share or like this?”

An extra tip when creating a campaign that has sensitive content (like breast cancer & domestic violence) is to be careful. You have to be sure not to trigger or upset your audience. You’re posting sensitive content as it is, so if you’re planning on releasing a video clip or picture, don’t forget to mention in the caption or opening credits that the content may be triggering to some.

Secondly, keep in mind that our ultimate goal for using social media for causes like these are to support the fighters, admire the survivors, honor the taken, and raise awareness so people know how to handle the situation, learn the signs, learn how you can prevent it, or help a friend in need.

Social media is and always will be growing. It’s our outlet to the world. Most importantly, social content is created by real people who care about causes like Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence. There is only so much that the media and news channel will tell us. We need social media to relate to others, to hear other people’s stories, to tell our own stories, and to remind ourselves that we are not alone, even when we feel like we are.

– A


Ananya Wangay is a Community Manager at MSM DesignZ, Inc. MSM DesignZ is a full service advertising and design firm based in Westchester County, New York.