Online activism is an incredibly powerful tool for change that gives activists who would otherwise go unnoticed an immediate and vast audience to hear their side of the story. It is an instantaneous tool for like-minded people to band together in one place, regardless of where they are.
It is, however, important to distinguish between the online activist versus the online saboteur, and businesses who have not invested in placing their reputation for being ethical and transparent on record will be particularly exposed in times of crisis.
There is a huge responsibility for activists to ensure that they can stand by the veracity of their cause. Online activism, however well-intentioned, can also lead to unwarranted damage to brands.
When conversations ignite society’s emotions about a particular issue — whether it is for or against a cause — there are many 'keyboard warriors' who jump on the bandwagon without really interrogating the merits of the issue at hand.
Online activism can be very unpredictable and can start a potentially open-ended conversation to which activists can return to time and time again.
It raises one important issue for business — actually, an important opportunity — and that is to be much more in tune with the conversations that their audiences are having and to be sensitive to their causes. It is inevitable that mistakes will be made, but the key is to get ahead of the problem before being called out.
It is critical that companies are proactive when problems do arise to explain, apologise, repair the damage and rebuild trust on the premise that a problem will not reoccur. Business must be able to answer the question ‘what is the worst thing that could happen to our company on social media today, and are we ready to deal with it?’
The online world has enabled society to become a conscience for business and it is a conscience that is ever vigilant and fearless in its pursuit of what it believes is just.
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