Social Media

Repeat After Me: “We Like Likes.”

Communications is a world where shiny new toys appear often. Good communicators test these toys–or new ideas and tools–to see what works. Public interest communicators are perhaps the most eager to try new approaches and ideas, given that we’re pretty impatient about driving positive social change.

Facebook isn’t a new communications channel, but we’re just beginning to better understand the potential for using various social media effectively. One new study, which examines the social-change power of the like, has reinvigorated the use of the word slacktivism.

No love for the like?

Sure, slacktivism represents fun wordplay, but I have a problem with the concept behind it. It fails to fully recognize that movements require various types of engagement and downplays more passive levels of involvement by using the pejorative label slack. Social change work requires people to engage in a variety of ways: some will wear the cause T-shirt, others will write occasional emails to policymakers, and yet others will organize and attend multiple events and meetings.

At a time when the information landscape is more cluttered than ever before, we need to showcase issues and relevant actions in a consistent way across multiple platforms. That means that bumper stickers, T-shirts and likes matter along with presentations, meetings and policy briefs. Does each tool or action play the same role in a social change movement? Of course not. But does each one play and important role? Definitely.

What does your “like” look like?

All likes are not equal. Consider what potential likes might say about you, as if you were taking a Buzzfeed quiz:


You’re a foodie–or you need a snack.



You’re happy that a friend is getting some downtime (or you’re really mean).




You want people to know that you believe that everyone has the right to marry the person who they love.

All of these statements can define who we are as people, and as the Norwegian study shows, most of us “like” issues to communicate the importance of social responsibility. That like is an important part of a social change movement.

Looking for lots of likes

Collective likes can improve online search results, start conversations and capture attention of other media channels. (Consider how often traditional news media sources speak to Twitter trends, for example.) Repetition matters in communications, and social media channels like Facebook can help with lots of likes. And each like and related post provides an opportunity for sharing consistent messages, which can make these likes even more effective.

So let’s drop the slacktivism label and embrace all types of activism. Most of us engage deeply on a few issues or social change movements and do what we can to support others. “What we can” might mean buying from a company with positive social values, putting a bumper sticker on the car or clicking like. Let’s do what we can where and when we can.



Posted: August 8, 2014
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