Why many people are turning to the internet to help promote causes

Drawing attention to a cause used to require a lot of money or a great deal of time and effort. Even with teams of volunteers, it was difficult for most people to reach very far beyond their own neighborhoods. The internet has changed all that. The biggest game changer in communications since the printing press, it gives ordinary people the chance to reach a mass audience. What really matters now is your imagination.

Raising awareness

If your main aim is to draw attention to a cause – for instance, to make people more aware of breast cancer so they can check for lumps that might need medical attention – then the most important thing for you to do is make sure people are talking about it. Social media can work very well for this. You can attach it to a category in Pinterest, use a hashtag on Twitter or circulate a captioned image on Facebook. The trick is to get enough people talking about it at once to peak the curiosity of others. Petitions can also be effective if you have enough people to ensure they get off to a good start, as people are more likely to be attracted to a cause which they can see that others support.

Raising money

Raising money is a bit more of a challenge because you need to persuade people to make a real commitment, but some people who don’t have much time to give to a good cause like to make donations so they can still feel useful. There’s some great free donation software online to make fundraising easier, and crowdfunding sites can be helpful when you’re focused on specific campaigns.

Making it stand out

The difficulty in using the internet to promote a cause is that a lot of other people are doing it too. How can you make your cause stand out? The answer is to get creative. Use humor or introduce people to new ideas. Use images and videos that shock or entertain. You’ll need a good, responsively designed website to anchor your campaign but don’t just go through the motions – it’s the content that counts. You can draw people in by providing them with things that might be useful to them, such as statistics related to the cause, advice on how to cope with an illness or disability you’re drawing attention to, or interesting facts about a country where you want to help people,

Getting big media attention

To make a really big splash, you can use you internet presence as a hook to draw in the support of traditional media. You’ll need to send out press releases to let them know you’re out there, and a good way to increase the chance of them getting attention is to connect them to topical issues. When Daniel Fleetwood got in touch with the producers of new Star Wars film The Force Awakens and they arranged for him to see it early because he was terminally ill, it helped to draw attention to spindle cell sarcoma, the rare cancer that has since cost him his life. The viral Star Wars wish reached worldwide audiences who would never have come across the issue otherwise.

As well as linking up with successful franchises or hot properties like this, you can try connecting with celebrities. Sometimes you can be successful by reaching out to them through your personal networks or through their agents. Sometimes they will find you, especially if they have a personal connection to the cause.

Pros and cons

Using the internet means you can develop a lot of material and resources to substantiate your cause, and you can talk to people across a wide range of platforms. You will need to plan and structure your campaigning carefully, however, because it’s easy to find yourself pouring all your time into maintaining social media activity without much noticeable gain. Inactive social media accounts can become a liability. If you have a team of people, make sure you understand where their talents lie and allot tasks accordingly. However, make sure everybody will be able to take some time off so that nobody gets burnt out.

Donating time or money to causes requires trust, and many people are wary about online campaigns, so it’s best to combine them with other kinds of activities in order to demonstrate that you have a real world presence. Once you’ve established yourself, however, imaginative internet campaigning can be very effective indeed.

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