On Wednesday, USAID made a big push to get 13.3 million people to participate in a single day of advocacy through the FWD campaign. I wrote a post about the campaign, raised a few questions, included a short interview with Matthew Johnson of USAID, added a video, and said that I would conduct a bit of an experiment.
During the day, I shared my post and facts about the campaign. I used both Twitter and Facebook, but I will focus on the results from Twitter. Admittedly, I do not use Facebook often, so my messages through that medium did not get very far. Additionally, the audience is mixed compared to my twitter followers who are already engaged in social issues and use it to stay connected and on top of the latest news.
My blog post did about as well as it usually does. I promoted it lightly with only two tweets, and it garnered 8 tweets (as tracked by Disqus) and two comments. In between, I peppered in fact based tweets using the suggested messaging from FWD. Those were largely ignored with a handful of retweets, but nothing of note to report.
By mid-day, keeping track of the discussions, I saw Amanda Makulec tweet, "If you can name the Kardashians faster than the countries affected by the crisis in the #HornofAfrica... usaid.gov/FWD @USAID #FWD." At the time over 20 people retweeted (including myself) it. It made me thing of the fact that people had been using a "Kardashian Calculator" to tell how long their marriage has lasted relative to that of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries (72 days for those unaware).
So, I thought I should compare the length of the marriage to the famine in Somalia. Using the UN declaration of July 20, I calculated the number to be 1.57. As I was looking for the information about the Kardashian marriage and the Horn of Africa crisis, I came across two staggering numbers. First, the wedding cost an estimated total of $10 million. Second, the UN's appeal for relief in the Horn of Africa is $2.5 billion. It would take 250 Kardashian weddings to fund the relief efforts.
Armed with a celebrity and facts I wrote the following tweet: "Fact: The declared famine in the #HornofAfrica has lasted 1.57 Kardashians. It will cost 250 #Kardashian weddings to fund the relief effort." I tweeted it once shortly after noon, and again a few hours later without word 'fact' at the start of the tweet. The results:
The two tweets garnered 39 new retweets, roughly 10 or so old retweets or modified tweets, and a handful of comments. Throwing in a pop culture reference did wonders. I tossed it up on my Facebook page and my personal account. Both received positive results. Even people from USAID said they were fans of the tweet. Most surprising was that a lot of people did not comment on the personal Facebook post, but friends I saw that day commented to me about it. To that end, it was a success because I was then able to engage in a conversation about both the absurdity of the wedding and the situation in the Horn of Africa.
I did not stumble on to anything earth shattering. Organizations use celebrities to bring notoriety to their cause. The FWD campaign is no exception with the series of PSAs made with celebrities. ONE did the same thing last month to kick off their Horn of Africa campaign. What was different here was that my tweets poked fun at celebrity and current pop culture. It was by no means clever and I do not aim to pat myself on the back. The problem of furthering engagement persists. I raised it in my post about the campaign when it was first announced, again this week, and many times before.
What interests me is how to take these conversations offline and in a forward direction. I was able to do that to a small extent through my Facebook status update, but not in any way that I would consider significant. This is probably hampered by the fact that I do not often use Facebook as a medium to discuss social issues. Social networks are not the sole way to achieve advocacy, but can open doors to conversations. What I hope to do is to further explore how to accomplish this end.
Update 11/11 1:00 PM EST - Easterly tweets my second Kardashian tweet and RTs jump to a total 35 from 19 this morning.
Update 11/13 - Final RT count now up to 50