Mini Case Study: How to leverage social media for action not just commentary
While some applaud the power of social media to create social change, others doubt that information and discussion moves users to action. This fall, Malcolm Gladwell took a strong stand against the role of social media in changemaking, stating that connections formed by social media are “weak ties,” ask too little of participants, and do not lead to “high risk activism”. These ties, he argued, provide information but don’t compel us to act. If We Ran The World founder Cindy Gallop wants to make social media as act-friendly as possible.
Upon entering If We Ran The World, users are prompted to answer the question: If I ran the world, I would... The site spits out a variety of possible actions for you to take linked to your response. With each action, you build a profile, creating not only a list of actions, but an activist identity that is shared across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Users are viewed by their microactions and “action platforms” (how they would change the world). Users can also create microactions for others to take on. With a background in advertising and branding, Gallop thinks closely about how to tap good intentions by using them as branding opportunities; for the individual, but also for companies, which can learn what actions and brands users care about so that they can target products to those interests and commitments.
After just ten months, If We Ran The World users are generating actions that Gallop herself never expected. “We always intended it to be a place to make anything you want happen – not just social change,” Gallop said. “People are starting ventures on this website, people are using the site to change things about themselves, a politician has used the site to run her municipal election campaign, and more recently teachers have said they can use this in schools to generate action.” The site also partners with conferences at what Gallop calls “the moment of intention” to truly move idea-generation into the space of action. Unlike other uses of social media for social good, Gallop says, “On ‘If We Ran the World’ you can’t lie, because everything is based on what you actually do.” If We Ran the World hopes to develop further to the point where it can show users the picture of themselves created across their social media profiles and offer them ways to formulate it further with microactions. “The concept microaction itself has been around forever,” Gallop says, “the innovative key here is showing how they actually look good and feel better from taking those actions.”