Learn how to galvanise support through online campaigns from successful South African organisation Amandla.mobi
Online campaigns have been criticised as ‘clicktivism’ — an armchair form of campaigning with low input and little effect. Koketso Moeti, founding executive director of Amandla.mobi, which is South Africa’s leading online campaigning organisation, begs to differ. To her, this is a powerful, effective tool that requires high levels of engagement and effort.
“When you start a campaign, a lot of work goes into it. You have to carefully plan it, launch it, execute and measure it. Sitting back will not drive the campaign to success,” Moeti says. She was speaking at the Civic Tech Innovation Forum held in November 2018 at the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg.
Moeti has run and been involved in many successful campaigns including efforts concerning Life Esidimeni, the ongoing DataMustFall campaign and a project titled ‘Tell the government to abandon nuclear and invest in 100% Black-owned renewable energy’ and many more on the Amandla.mobi site.
When planning a campaign, think of ways it can get traditional media coverage as well as attention on social media. Moeti gives the example of the Kodaikanal Unilever mercury poisoning in India. The issue managed to gain momentum and trend online after 27-year-old activist Sofia Ashraf remade Nicki Minaj’s hit single “Anaconda” in a bid to raise awareness about the issue after years of campaigning. The video went viral with more than three million views on YouTube and support from Minaj.
According to Moeti, the take away is that campaigners need to realise that companies care more about their public image and losing money than the issues at hand. For instance, in 2018 the chief executive of South African insurance company Momentum, Johann le Roux, initially insisted that the company was right to reject a claim by a widow, due to the non-disclosure of a pre-existing health condition by her late husband. Momentum later changed its policy after there were public outcry and online shaming.
These examples show how you can stimulate support in favour of a common goal using a collective base of people from different disciplines, such as lawyers, media practitioners, singers, social media influencers and campaigners.
How to plan a successful campaign
It all starts with a clear vision. “Firstly, it is important that you define yourselves and your goals because if you do not, someone else will define you. Not defining the important aspects of your campaign will affect the chances of it achieving the goals set,” says Moeti. “The push to change is not linear, there are different contributions and digital provides a chance to harness a community.”
You need to identify the potential friends and opponents of the campaign so that you can engage people who can help the campaign move forward and gain momentum. A part of this is asking yourself about who may be in your ‘echo chamber’, since the repetition or amplification of ideas can work both in favour or against your campaign, affecting its success.
The next step is deciding on concrete strategies, which should ideally force people to make a choice of some kind to mobilise them. For instance, Moeti says that “in the South African context, if you are running an awareness campaign on racism, don’t target the group that is already aware and affected by racism and you cannot target groups like AfriForum. However, between the two groups exists a neutral group,” says Moeti.
She thus says you should be designing your campaign in a way moves people towards the ladder of engagement, since the more an issue is discussed, the more awareness you are likely to raise. Moeti advises that you need to actively make your supporters aware that every contribution matters because you’re harnessing the collective power of individuals coming together for a common goal.
Regardless of the exact strategy you take, you need to have a distinct narrative. Don’t overcommunicate the problem, suggests Moeti, since “the most successful campaigns are clear and have a direct message.” People may write informally on online platforms, so it is best to not overuse corporate and technical language or jargon. A campaign about landfills, for instance, may be less powerful when worded as “our campaign aims to minimize the usage of local landfill facilities.” A short and direct message like “landfill stinks! Please recycle!” encourages people to take action.
According to Moeti whatever your campaign goal is if your target audience has access to the internet and there is an opportunity to build a successful campaign. Although there remains a debate on online campaigns’ effectiveness, there is evidence to show online campaigns have resulted in a great change on many issues across the globe.