UNICEF Sweden has an image that’s floating around the Internet and causing quite a stir:
“Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio. We have nothing against likes, but vaccine costs money…”
It’s part of a fundraising and awareness campaign by UNICEF Sweden that includes this video (subtitled in English). The point is a powerful one: “liking” something on Facebook, or sharing a status update, or retweeting something, often has no impact at all beyond a momentary “Oh, that’s sad” moment for the viewer. By itself, it does NOT create any real impact.
Danny Brown, a blogger and author, doesn’t like the campaign; he thinks slacktivism or slackervism campaigns – where a person is encouraged to “like” something on Facebook and feel like he or she has made a difference – are terrific.
As I’ve said before, I LOATHE slacktivism. As a consultant and researcher that works with nonprofits every day regarding community engagement and fundraising, I see again and again just what little return on investment the vast majority of nonprofits get for investing in such campaigns. I also see the endless posts by young people on YahooAnswers who believe this is all they have to do – like something or click on something – to make a difference, and don’t understand why they have to actually volunteer or donate something to actually support a cause. These campaigns imply that actually donating money, volunteering, writing a letter to a politician or turning out for a demonstration aren’t really necessary – just click “like” and we’ll solve domestic violence, homelessness, hunger animal abuse, and on and on! It’s a misconception that is growing – and it’s creating generations of people who don’t see the point of actually investing time or money.
I note in detail in this blog from 2010 why slacktivism does NOT generate donations or increased awareness for most nonprofits or causes – and the blog also notes nonprofits CAN (and do) use Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites to create a real social marketing/health marketing campaign, with real impact (changed behavior, new awareness, etc.) – so I won’t repeat myself here.
And for those who want to accuse me of being a Luddite, or implying that the Internet isn’t an effective way to donate time and talent to a nonprofit, NGO, charity, etc. – I’ve been promoting virtual volunteering since the mid-1990s. Online action can have HUGE impact for a mission-based organization. But it takes more than just a “like” on Facebook.
Also see: what ROI for online action really looks like.