Every once in awhile we get a big reminder of the remarkable power of social media – and this week – as the Supreme Court heard arguments related to same-sex marriage and marriage equality – has certainly been one of those times. It has been truly amazing to see the number of people “standing up” in support of gay marriage by changing their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter. While the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) pink equal sign against a red background has been the prime factor in turning newsfeeds red, it’s not the only symbol people have been posting – I’ve seen any number of spin-offs, related photos, posts, likes and comments in support of (and some opposed to) gay marriage. It’s also not the only one promoted by the HRC, which has encouraged people to share and post a variety of different photos and quotes along the way.
Regardless of your views on gay marriage, the HRC’s social media initiatives provide an interesting case study on the power of social media in terms of cause marketing. In this case, we are referring to the broader definition of cause marketing, which encompasses any type of marketing for social/charitable causes, including efforts by nonprofit organizations. However, it has been interesting to see a number of big brands, including Bud Light, Kimpton Hotels, Orbitz and Martha Stewart posting the red equal sign – or their own variations thereof – in support of marriage equality. According to a March 26 Time NewsFeed article, the photo of the red and pink equal sign racked up more than 25,000 “likes” and 78,000 “shares” on the group’s Facebook page in its first 24 hours. (The campaign launched around 11 a.m. MST on Monday.) And that doesn’t account for the additional thousands – even tens of thousands – of peer-to-peer impressions. In fact, according to a March 26 MSNBC article, the original photo posted on the HRC’s Facebook timeline had been seen by more than 9 million people by Tuesday afternoon.
Of course, the question is whether or not all of that sharing changes people’s opinions about gay marriage, influences the Supreme Court’s decisions, or increases awareness of and support for the HRC. Only time will tell on these fronts.
Certainly, the HRC’s efforts encompass two of the key elements needed for a successful social media-based cause marketing initiative: authenticity and passion. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, the HRC can no doubt authentically and passionately stand up in support of gay marriage. And if, per a quote by HRC spokesperson Charlie Joughin in the aforementioned MSNBC article, the HRC’s purpose with this campaign was “to give people an opportunity to show their support for gay marriage in a public and visible way,” then it has been extraordinarily successful.