Last week, as you may have noticed, a small symbol went viral as a profile picture and Twitter avatar in the online world. The red square with an equal sign was meant to raise awareness of the Supreme Court Hearings on the issue of marriage equality.
As the campaign gained steam through the middle of the week, however, there was a period where people were seeing the symbol everywhere but had no idea what it meant. Some thought it was an awareness campaign for something having to do with math.
This is the biggest danger in setting up an awareness campaign in the online world. When you are close to the project, your symbol, your purpose, and your mission statement all seem acutely obvious. That’s because it’s your idea, so you know exactly what the goals and meanings are.
What you can’t bank on is that people who are not so immersed in the project might not have a clue what you are trying to raise awareness of, or what you are trying to say. So, what can you do to avoid these kinds of problems?
Tip #1: Put Messaging On Your Symbol
One mistake made was that they did not put any messaging on their symbol. It was just the equal sign and the color red. The ideal way to raise awareness is to follow the lead of causes like No Kid Hungry. They use Facebook memes and Twibbons, among other tools, but each piece of the puzzle carries some type of content so that you know exactly who is behind the image and what the image is meant to communicate.
Tip #2: Create an Information Hub
If you don’t have a lot of room for copy on your image, or if you’re worried your message won’t be legible on a smaller Twitter avatar, an effective tactic for an awareness campaign can be a blog or Facebook page–some central location, like an information hubs–that can provide your social media sharers with valuable information. For example, “When you change your profile, use this description so people know why you changed the picture.” You can also write out tweets that are easy to share, which can help spread your message faster.
Tip #3: Listen and Intervene
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when you are driving an awareness campaign, you want to make sure you have the capacity to monitor social media platforms. If you are seeing a lot of mentions of your cause or theme together with question marks, you know you need to jump in, and clarify what you are trying to do. You also want to make sure you share or retweet people who are helping you out, and express gratitude as you can. This will entice people to further support you, and your efforts.
Awareness campaigns can be very beneficial, but only if everyone is actually aware of what the campaign is trying to do. Make sure you run your idea by a few people before you launch, and see if they “get it” without you explaining anything. If they don’t, you still have a little work to do.