The Twitter Cause Celebre: Raising Awareness or Self-Congratulatory Hooey?

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The Twitter Cause Celebre: Raising Awareness or Self-Congratulatory Hooey?
It’s hard not to roll your eyes when reading about the latest social media campaign ignited to raise awareness. Sure, Facebook fans can get Betty White on Saturday Night Live. But have subsequent social media movements addressing issues like bullying, domestic violence and breast cancer actually made a difference? Most likely, social media campaigns teeter between being the Internet equivalent of the Pet Rock and today’s version of Live Aid because of the sheer lightness of social media. Take this celebrity-fueled endeavor in honor of World AIDS Day for example.

Digital Life Sacrifice benefits Alicia Keys’ Keep A Child Alive AIDS charity by enlisting celebrities and their social media followers. For as long as it takes to raise $1 million dollars, stars like Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Usher and Justin Timberlake will remain silent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. While many people would pay to keep celebrities off of social media, the point here is to enlist fans and followers to fork over cash to Keys’ foundation, which goes towards the treatment for children with HIV/AIDS in India, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa. There’s no arguing that this is a noble cause, but when we peel back the layers of campaigns like this one, we see a naiveté and egoism which can thwart the message of such efforts.

Social media fundraising and awareness raising campaigns need clear-cut goals other than hocking t-shirts and showing that celebrities are good people, too. As some have pointed out already, the goals of Keep A Child Alive are fuzzy at best – but that’s not to say Keys is the first star whose pet project fails to drive a message home. For example, how many “No H8” photo shoots have we seen stars take part in while the cause behind it still goes largely ignored? These social media campaigns have put the stars involved in them in the headlines, but at the end of the day, little impact is felt. That being said, Keys deserves recognition for tying in our celebrity obsession with fundraising. How powerful a star’s group of social media followers truly is will be tested with Digital Life Sacrifice.

But let’s hear from you. Do Twitter-launched campaigns raise awareness or are they just good PR?

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