Understanding social media for social change: Good practices and limitations of using social media to reach out to youth for the prevention of GBV
P4P is helping to test the use of social media platforms in campaigns to prevent GBV in the Asia-Pacific region. Social media can be a powerful tool for engaging young people with violence prevention efforts, but it has its limitations. The P4P regional project, “Engaging Young Men through Social Media for the Prevention of Violence against Women” - designed to raise awareness and motivate young people to take action to prevent GBV - has revealed practical lessons from three campaigns, on the effective use of social media tools for violence prevention. The three campaigns, implemented in 2011/2012, were conducted by Community the Youth Collective (CYC), a youth NGO from Delhi, India; Peace and Development Viet Nam (PYD), a Spanish NGO in Hanoi, Vietnam; and Eastern Campus, a public relations company in Beijing, China, that focuses on promoting social issues on college campuses.
P4P is currently developing a guide on Applying Social Media Tools for the Primary Prevention of Gender-based Violence that will review the key elements of each campaign, consolidate technical lessons on how to apply social media tools, and summarize how social media tools can support effective violence prevention interventions. Some highlights are presented here.
The key areas where social media has strong potential include:
• Increasing awareness among target audiences
• Fostering a level of online ‘engagement’
• Increasing access to non-formal education
• Strengthening and mobilizing networks
• Amplifying the voice of individuals
Lessons learnt from the campaigns also highlighted the limitations of social media for the prevention of GBV. These included:
• Social media campaigns are less effective when conducted as standalone activities, compared to when integrated with face-to face and on-the-ground activities
• Social media interactions cannot replace structured group education activities
• It can be difficult to understand what kind of impact social media interactions have on the target audience
• In general, social media tends to expose large audiences to messages, but only engages much smaller numbers of people in some kind of learning, and an even a smaller number of people to take concrete actions to prevent GBV
In terms of technical good practices for conducting social media campaigns, the three campaigns found creating an on-the-ground community that feels ownership of the campaign first – and then working with this community to mobilize more members both online and offline – was a key to success. Identifying the most appropriate social media platform(s), i.e. partnering the campaign with a popular platform already frequented by the target audience, was also important.
Partnering with celebrities and the use of videos also helped to build participation and expose youth to positive messages. For example, China brought on the popular boy band ALiLang, and actor Chen Kun as campaign ambassadors (http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzI2MDcwMTk2.html), as did the campaign in Viet Nam, with musicians Pham Anh Khoa, Trường Sa and Mai Khôi (www.youtube.com/watch?v=xz-aP0cXgT0).
Other key factors included, integrating online with offline activities, attention to timing, crafting positive messages, and ensuring adequate human and technical resources.
The campaigns further highlighted the need for good practices during the implementation phase, including the need to ensure that online moderators are highly interactive, flexible and help guide online discussions to bring them on-topic.
Online activities must be uncomplicated, fun, easy to take part in, easy to understand, visually appealing, and make personal connections/appeal to the audiences’ emotions. For example, the campaign in China called for blogs on topics their target audience could relate to – such as job-related topics. The contest in Viet Nam also found that simple activities worked online – the first photo essay contest they chose was difficult to understand and did not elicit many responses. After simplifying the contest, the campaign took off. The campaign in India held a series of short online activities on focused topics and asked people to blog about a specific subject, or to submit a poster/photo/video on a particular theme.
Finally, incentives were necessary to engage audiences: each of the campaigns used incentives to attract people to take part in the campaigns – India used mainly capacity development opportunities along with recognition as incentives; China used mainly recognition; and Vietnam took the approach of material rewards. Social media tools were used to amplify recognition of the winners and their ideas.
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