The Impact of Social Media on Social Activism and what it has to do with Advertising

In the age of social media and social activism it is important look at how the two connect and disconnect and how it can affect brands.

By Amanda Castillo | @_mandymichelle

How young adults get involved in social issues through social media. Source:

In the age of social media, it only makes sense that we would find a way to incorporate it as a tool to advocate for the causes we strongly believe in. Social activism is by no means a new idea but it is changing in the way it is shared and organized through social media platforms. a great example of this is the use of hashtags on Twitter as a way to bring attention to certain topic, #BlackLivesMatter, #LoveWins, #NoDapl, and most recently, #LetThemIn as an attack on an executive order signed by President Trump to ban people from Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S.

While there is no question that social media is a powerful tool for advocating for important causes, is there a disconnect between off-line activism and online activism?

The fact remains: social media cannot reinvent what it means to do social activism, to be political, and to achieve social change. While a retweet or a change of profile picture is a sign of solidarity and a way to spread a message and support a cause, there is often a disconnect between how people want to portray themselves online and how they choose to act on a daily basis. Are they protesting? Are they donating? Are they volunteering? Are they engaging in social activism? Or are they merely saying, “I don’t agree with this, but I’m not inclined to take action against it”.

How can social media help?

“This connectedness is an essential mechanism with which members of our generation communicate with each other not only just to socialize, but also to advance our ideas of social justice for the world we live in.”

The Women’s March on Washington is a recent cause that really showed how a cause can be magnified and elevated to a whole new level through social media. What was supposed to be a local march became a global event because it was a cause that resonated with so many people in a way that made them want to go out and do something. The cause and the organization of the cause were on the same page and it allowed for a historic demonstration to take place. In this case, social media was used as a tool to organize and not just to get people talking but to get people to go out and do.

Okay, great. What does any of this have to do with advertising?

Well, because we as a generation are putting more effort into social activism this means that social justice is no longer off limits for brands. Lifestyle brands are now more likely to take a stand on issues that are trending on social media. In fact, it seems like not taking a stand on certain issues can alienate consumers as much as taking a stand some consumers oppose. An example of this is the #LoveWins campaign. Brands such as Ben and Jerry’s, American Airlines, Macy’s, Target, Jell-O, and many more supported the campaign. While those opposed to the ruling swore off the brands and they may have lost customers they increased their brand loyalty and gained lifelong supporters by taking a stand on a controversial issue. We are seeing this more and more often when equality and diversity are in question and I am interested to see how vocal or non-vocal brands decide to be in the next 4 years.


Has Social Media Successfully Reinvented Social Activism?

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism