There was an interesting article in the Washington Post Style section this past weekend about a woman who started an online petition for JC Penney to retract a T-Shirt from its stores which read: “I’m too pretty to do my homework, so my brother has to do it for me.” Between the 1,600 signatures she collected by putting her campaign on Change.org and the negative comments JC Penney was receiving on Facebook and product reviews, the T-Shirt was pulled from their stores within 13 hours of the petition’s birth.
This article is amusing, yes, but it is also very telling about the profound effect a social media campaign can have on a grassroots advocacy effort. It’s easy to get discouraged and think that the time and energy you put into your social media effort just ends up as white noise somewhere in the vast expanses of cyber space. Also, I would be lying if I claimed that every grassroots advocacy issue with a social media presence is successful within 13 hours (or at all for that matter). That said, what this article shows us is that a well-organized, well thought out campaign with a strong message can be extremely effective not only for building a foundation of supporters but for getting your message heard by the people you want to hear it. Your cause may not have an attention-grabbing, insulting T-Shirt to get people fired up, but if you can find a creative way to appeal to your audience, your advocacy base will only grow. Better yet, there is a serious possibility that you will accomplish something.