Final Project: “The #Hash Reality about Slacktivism”

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“The #Hash Reality about Slacktivism”

When I first came across “slacktivism” later in the semester, I was puzzled. What does this exactly mean? Yes, there are several thoughts and opinions regarding the meaning of the word, but where was the legal definition and analysis?

Well fret no more! Dictionary.com just added several new trending terms and phrases. Some argue that Dictionary.com may not be 100% legitimate, in which I have to agree, but it’s a start, and a surprising movement to say the least. But the truly amazing thing is that companies are keeping keen focus on the trending hashtags and digital discussions that expand internationally. Bustle

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Several companies have struggled with the way in which to exactly approach global issues and conversations not only for marketing purposes, but also to strengthen the customer relations. Organizational brands like Starbucks, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Patagonia, Nike, and Ikea to name a few are physically inserting themselves into the conversation. PR Week describes these organizational brands to be companies that solely focus on identity and purpose–“who is behind it and why it matters.” These companies are huge corporations who have a massive digital and physical following that actively analyzes their behaviors and actions. This strong following is truly immaculate. Users have developed such a kinship with certain brands over the years, and result in die-hard salesmen for a specific product. For example, what’s truly amazing is how many people were waitlisted for the release of the Apple Watch. Had anyone seen the physical product? No, (Other than Beyoncé and Karl Lagerfeld, among the few, who had been gifted the solid gold, custom style of the Apple Watch). Harper’s Bazaar Both celebs posted photos to Instagram about their new gift, days before the release.

I can say that I’m not exactly surprised of this premature release – especially to popular celebrities. Apple gets three gold stars for this marketing and sales initiative. They have recognized the value of celebrities, and how they can connect their product with this physical value. Celebrities sell–whether it is fashion, products, media, or hashtags–they have a dramatic influence on the public and their sense and urgency of wants (and I’m not talking about needs).

Let’s move forward to talk about the level of power that a single hashtag possesses. There’s a long list of positive outcomes from hashtags. First, they engage people across widely spread channels with one specific idea, thought, quote, or interest. They are incredibly successful in grouping people together. Within the last few years, a large purpose for the hashtag is for platform campaigning as well as supporting cultural events. The role of the hashtag has dramatically changed in recent years. Now, it is a symbol for change, for movement, and showing support for a specific issue or topic. Don’t go start doodling hashtag love all over your notebooks quite yet. Here comes the dark side of hashtags and the public’s perspective: yes, hashtags can be such a useful tool for cultivating ideas and bringing people together, but they can also be used as the lazy man’s effort for activism. The campaigns capture the media and public’s attention and work to create the conversation and dialogue. There’s a level of psychology behind the hashtag. Several users think to themselves: “Oh, I went out of my way to film someone throwing some ice water on my back and hash-tagged ‘IceBucketChallenge’ in order to spread awareness – so easy – and I feel good about myself.”

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No. This is a true example of the uninformed user. The user in which doesn’t take the time to read the news to understand why this hashtag has appeared in their Instagram or Facebook Newsfeed. In turn, the whole movement and hopeful outcome of the hashtag campaign is shot-down.

I noticed several users in my network of friends failing to realize the true reason for the campaign–to help raise awareness and support for the ASL Association. This is the moment in which you realize that users may be spending more money on materials–the ice, bucket, and a camera crew–instead of actually challenging others to be engaged in the movement in order to directly support the ALS Association.

Users feel this sense of satisfaction after “clicking-to-support” a cause on social media. This is exactly the opposite of what they should feel. Yes, they should be actively engaging via hashtags to stay at the center of the conversation, but this is only the first step. The next step is to take iniative! The solution is often forgotten in this process. There can be a desired outcome after a Tweet or FaceBook post, but ultimately no real change has occurred.

I reviewed the latest efforts of one of the major organizational brands that I discussed prior: Starbucks.There is a lot of pressure against these mega brands, directly from its customers, and directly from the Millennial generation. Millennials are very judgmental and hesitant in their actions. They prefer the “mom and pop” style shops, so to say, versus the corporate giants like Starbucks. This makes Starbucks’ marketing efforts even more challenging. I have to agree that they have an outstanding marketing structure that is focused on informing, rather than selling.

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Starbucks has successfully identified the weak spots and the gaps in their efforts, and worked to improve them by going digitally where customers hang out. I think what was most interesting in this is that they post slightly different content across channels. Starbucks’ Pinterest account is more intimate, feeling like a customer’s personal set of resources for gifts, home, friends, etc. The main goal for their Twitter account is to service customer feedback. They spend hours a day going through complaints and praises in order to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

These mega brands also struggle with CSR strategies. Like Starbucks–who brands themselves around fair trade, sustainability, and coffee beans–organizational brands are having more of a voice against global issues. They are working to instigate conversations and actions–essentially using their national footprint for good. Especially within Starbucks, there has been a lot of debate around the legitimacy and trust of Starbucks’ efforts. They are the queens and kings of using catchy promotions and empty promises to promote their brand, however get caught up in the face of irony. Starbucks has been directly accused of “greenwashing” on several accounts with different efforts and products that they sell.

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This conversation receives global attention because of one powerful thing (among others)–the hashtag. Because of this immediate conversation, brands like this should be aware of every single footprint they make, careful of veering into the realm of negative associations.

Update 4/30/15: “Starbucks Stops Selling Drought Water” Source

This update is proof of how influential online discussions can be on the structure of a brand’s strategic management plan.

I think that this is a major issue, especially in the heat of all of the overlapping hashtag campaigns such as #blacklivesmatter, #racematters, the violence in Baltimore, and shootings in Missouri. Starbucks initiated a #RaceTogether campaign in which baristas wrote hashtags on customer’s drinks in order to encourage the discussion. This received both positive and negative feedback from both ends of the spectrum. Several customers were outraged in the fact that baristas didn’t possess the knowledge or the care to discuss these issues, and some viewed it solely as a marketing and PR advantage.

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In my opinion, this was very strategic because they were taking a stance, and keeping both the current issues and their brand at the center of the conversation. However what they failed on was the next step: taking the initiative. After receiving negative feedback, they immediately stopped and stopped pursuing the campaign in several areas around the world. A true example of #slacktivism.

People need to focus more on the longevity of the issue in order to make a difference, to make a change. There is an incredible amount of potential here, but it is often lost after a single hashtag message. Hashtags have become a massive symbol for campaigning and promoting Free Speech, so why not push it to its potential and push for real, tangible change. There needs to be a sustaining attention to the issue in order to keep the awareness and engagement circling, thus getting even more support, ad hopefully leading to brighter futures.

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OTHER SOURCES

http://www.9news.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/08/18/ice-bucket-challenge-whom-does-it-serve/14254099/

http://www.newsweek.com/why-companies-are-driving-social-change-327258

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/how-starbucks-crushes-it-social-media

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141112163710-200769548-starbucks-killer-social-media-strategy

Jill Bolte’s Stroke of Insight

Watch Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED Talk here (Links to an external site.)!
 25brain_2.190About Jill Bolte Taylor
Jill Bolte Taylor had an incredible opportunity that few people would wish for. Taylor had a massive stroke and watched the progression of her brain functions as they shut down one by one. Because of this experience, she has become a very powerful and influential voice for not only brain recovery but altering mindsets.
“Jill Bolte Taylor was a 37-year-old Harvard-trained and published brain scientist when a blood vessel exploded in her brain.  Through the eyes of a curious neuroanatomist, she watched her mind completely deteriorate whereby she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. Because of her understanding of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and an amazing mother, Jill completely recovered her mind, brain and body.” Source (Links to an external site.)
When reading Taylor’s book, I found myself “on the edge of my seat,” figuratively speaking, for the whole duration of the book. She is able to illustrate the stages of her stroke as visual pictures for her viewers to easily interpret and picture for themselves. Through the experience of reading My Stroke of Insight, you feel as if you are a more-involved “fly on the wall” to the movie of her life, rather than being lectured about an insightful experience. Below is an excerpt of her out of body experience reaction, with the stroke as followed:
“And in that moment, my left hemisphere brain chatter went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button. Total silence. And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me. And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there.” Book
Through this moment she was able to map out the brain, her emotions, reactions, and senses for the users to try to sympathize with the feeling.
And the next thing my brain says to me is, Wow! This is so cool! This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out? – So I had to wield my paralyzed arm like a stump and cover the numbers as I went along and pushed them, so that as I would come back to normal reality, I’d be able to tell, “Yes, I’ve already dialed that number.” Book
Taylor accurately separates the difference between the right and left hemispheres and how they are essentially two of the same pieces with highly contrasted personalities. The right hemisphere – the “right here, right now” side that is highly visual and works on movement and energy. The left hemisphere – the “all about the past and future” side works on language. It identifies the text then categorizes the information to associate it with the past, then project assumptions for the future.
Media Presentation Timeline
  1. Presentation at TED
  • Viewed by millions around the world
  • Positive user response helped her become a highly sought-after public speaker
  • Chose by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2008
  • Premiere guest on Oprah’s Soul Series Web-Cast
  • Interviews with Oprah and Dr. Oz
  • CEO of My Stroke of Insight, Inc
  • Chairman of the Board of the not-for-profit Jill Bolte Taylor Brains, Inc
  • Dedicated to providing educational services, programs related to brain awareness, recovery, etc.
  • Feature Film (TBA)
“When neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor had a stroke that put her logical, sequential left brain temporarily out of commission, she experienced a temporary state of peaceful, all-connected consciousness that changed her forever.” HuffPost (Links to an external site.)
Her Influence
What’s incredible is that she saw this event as an opportunity rather than a setback – Iit would serve as a blessing and motivational tool to others going through similar symptoms. I think it’s incredibly valuable how she took advantage of her public speaking skills to share her powerful story. Among the visual examples, she expresses her vulnerability with every movement, thought, and action in the story of her stroke. This not only allowed the public to see a window inside Taylor’s comedic personality, but illustrated her human-like qualities. It brought the thorough case study to life. These verbal elements worked to gain her a significant amount of attention.
To be able to effectively tell these stories, she soon realized that she needed to emphasize her involvement, especially in the digital space due to several of her viewers overseas. She exudes a type of yogi personality with a encouragement and motivational Twitter account (Links to an external site.). She is constantly encouraging and interacting with her followers through inspirational quotes or simple sayings to send them positive vibes and energy throughout the day. What’s miraculous is that she is using her Twitter handle to spread the joy – and to spread her incredible story:
“Jill helps others not only rebuild their brains from trauma, but helps those of us with normal brains better understand how we can ‘tend the garden of our minds’ to maximize our quality of life.  Jill pushes the envelope in our understanding about how we can consciously influence the neural circuitry underlying what we think, how we feel, and how we react to life’s circumstances.” Source (Links to an external site.)
Her social media presence is the key to her success. Without TED’s large user base and the ability to display the video online to be streamed worked to her advantage. This is how she spreads her story and works to reach out to any individual in need of assistance or motivation.
“I believe the more time we spend running the deep inner peace circuitry of our right brain, then the more peace we will project into the world, and ultimately the more peace we will have on the planet.” Book

Death by SeaWorld

“Blackfish” by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s “Blackfish” tells the story of Tilikum, an aggressive orca that killed several SeaWorld trainers. Throughout the film, you don’t develop hatred toward Tilikum, but more so toward SeaWorld’s ethics and morals. Cowperthwaite accurately captures a collection of footage to illustrate the dangers of captivity among animals–nonetheless, one of the most emotional animals. A neuroscientist in the film points out a figment of an orca’s brain, in which humans do not have, that is a base for their emotional and cognitive reactions. This portion of the brain allows them to communicate with each other and derive emotions from specific actions.

What’s terrifying is SeaWorld’s treatment of orcas while in captivity. They are placed in a highly contrasted environment in comparison to the ocean, with 20 x 30 foot modules as a sleeping area. These conditions are incredibly small for the size and weight of these massive animals. Tilikum is just an example of how an animal is lashing out against poor treatment, and not from aggression towards humans.

I thought the documentary’s organization was very strategic. Cowperthwaite allows the viewer to create their own opinions and conclusions about the practices of SeaWorld. In no way does she directly sway your opinion, just displays the true facts and footage. The severity of SeaWorld’s inhumane practices are mind blowing; with OSHA and former SeaWorld trainer’s interviews to support that. These misconceptions and harmful conditions directly correlate to orca whales showing aggression. Cowperthwaite’s documentary accurately brings this issue to the light and encourages further action and support to end SeaWorld’s practices.

#DeathbySeaWorld

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Stardom’s Most Integral Member

“20 Feet from Stardom” by Morgan Neville

I found this documentary to be really inspiring. I had no idea what to expect before watching Morgan Neville’s film. I thought it was so interesting how they pointed out an often overlooked sector in the music industry. The emphasis of a band is always on the lead singer, and the remaining members are not rated at the same importance. This singles out the main singer from its backup singers and instrumental members.

This film sheds a light on this grayed out area of backup singers in the rock era. It’s remarkable how several of these backup singers careers changed upon recognition from a famous band. From the film I realized how influential backup singers are to a band. I believe they are an integral part of the band’s structure. Yes, the lead singer can have talent, but for a song to come across as ‘complete’, backup singers are needed.

What I also noticed is the lack of control in the careers and decisions of many backup singers in this era. They often had no control over when their next paycheck would come from, and how they would even get that opportunity. Once they were granted a specific gig, they often had little say in what they would be doing, or even wearing. If a backup singer wanted that opportunity, they would have to give up a piece of themselves, and essentially place their decisions in the hands of another. Several backup singers gave into this because there were so many talented singers just waiting for their chance of stardom.

One backup singer was particularly interesting: Judith Hill, who is often known to be Michael Jackson’s lead backup singer. After having so much fame and press from this contract with Michael, her name became circulated among many other artists. She was contacted for other backup opportunities, but desperately wanted to transition her career path to becoming a solo artist. She knew that by taking another backup singer job, she kept lowering her chances of succeeding as a solo artist. She turned down all of these jobs and focused on her goal, her dream. It’s very rare to hear of a backup singer becoming a successful solo artist, which leads to an interesting observation of the strong separation between a lead and a backup singer.

Street Art + Icons (A11)

The street-art-activity focus this week slightly increased my followers, but what was the most interesting thing was that it attracted users from very different social industries. A couple corporate-like accounts followed me as well as an artist. This worked to prove the accuracy and speed of connecting users via a simple hashtag.

What was interesting about this focused observation is what I discovered in my own area (Kips Bay/Gramercy). For those of you who are unfamiliar with this area – it’s very clean in terms of street art it’s generally corporate, an advertising hub, “curry hill”, luxury boutique hotels, etc. I found no presence of street art or graffiti during the day. While walking through this area at night however, the graffiti made its appearance. Several artists have tagged roll-down security gates throughout the area. This was the most interesting discovery I made, since it was completely unexpected.

As I explored other neighborhoods of New York I noticed the association that I made with certain restaurants, stores, walls, etc. I found myself remembering a specific location through the street art that it showcased; I remember the location of cafe ___ by it’s yellow lion tag on the securing gate. The influence of street art is huge – it’s essentially overshadowing and characterizing its setting.

Certain icons are well circulated within street art due to several reasons. The fact that that individual is/was a universal celebrity is an indicator, as well as their physical appeal. Characters like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis are particularly known by their physical features, which I believe, carries great weight in terms of influence and attraction.

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#RadStreetArt (A10)

Street art is a subject that has dramatically innovated and transformed over the years. It’s incredible the amount of influence that street art holds, as well as the quick timetable for global awareness. With a simple hashtag, one photograph of say a mural in NYC can be viewed by individuals from all over the world in seconds.

Artists today are becoming incredibly innovative by not only sticking to a canvas, but bringing art to the streets to increase awareness and expose their talents to the world. The battle between Robbo and Banksy was particularly interesting to me. It’s so fascinating to watch two influential street artists communicate via their personal art. What makes the conversation even more engaging is that both individuals are completely unknown to the public, nonetheless each other. The amount of global communication of this ongoing battle was inspiring, simply via social media with the help of photographs and hashtags. I found a particularly interesting article (link below) focusing on Robbo’s perspective of the battle with Banksy.

Graffiti War with Banksy

It’s so interesting to see how the mediums and styles of art have changed over several time periods, yet still embodies the same purpose: not only for visual entertainment, but as a tool for communication of free speech and other crucial topics of discussion. Like King Robbo states in reference to Banksy: “but that’s what he does, never expresses his own opinion, he puts something out and lets people fool themselves, he’s smart in that respect.” The most influential thing about art is that it is subjective. Everyone has a different take, understanding, or influence of art, which makes the argument all the more compelling.

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++++ Renewable Energy (A9)

The amount of growing influence of renewable energy resources and social media has been incredibly positive over the years. Awareness and activism about the issue has increased with flying colors, so to speak. I think there are several factors to tribute to this influence including the medium, channels, perceptions, environment, and target groups. The blend of these elements is crucial in strengthening initiatives to fight for specific environmental issues. The US has come very far in terms of time and the level of innovation. I think that there can always be improvements to an issue, and that we are never truly at the tipping point for innovation. Environmental conditions are constantly changing, so the focus has to be on adapting to these changes instead of focusing on the end goal.

Right now I think that the US is in a strong state of advocacy on the social change timeline. There have been many strong issues and events listed above that have worked to bring awareness and encourage participation. A big factor within this influence is social media. Many of the hashtags for these movements are associated with certain hashtags, in which people actively search to become familiar with the status of the issue. I did not participate in the People’s Climate March, but felt as though I had a very thorough knowledge of the March via Twitter. I remember searching through tweets, photographs, and articles regarding the March and seeing several different perspectives. I think it’s incredibly important to be aware of the different issues and sides that people are taking to factor in your response. If we keep this up, I think we will continue to see positive effects and hopefully soon, even more dynamic changes to the environmental issues today.

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