Last week the United Nations Special Envoy for Malaria announced a new initiative as part of their work to increase awareness of the disease and its simple means of prevention, which demonstrates a clever way of utilising social media. The Social Media Envoy for Malaria, which has gained the support of well-known social web and broadcast media figures, has been organised as a way to broadcast the UN’s mission of eliminating deaths caused by the disease by 2015 to as wide an online audience as possible.
Those who have signed up to the envoy have made a commitment to use their social media channels to publish at least one issue-relevant message per month in promotion of the cause. Big online names such as Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Mashable’s Pete Cashmere, Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post and Randi ‘Facebook’ Zuckerberg are to tweet, blog and publish other relevant online material as a means to inform their audiences on the issue and update them on any developments of the UN programme. The 25th of April, World Malaria day, see’s the start of this web campaign which will last a whole year.
On her involvement with the envoy, Huffington said: “Their plan to use social media to keep the spotlight on the goal of eradicating deaths from malaria by 2015 is smart, forward-thinking, and, given the growing reach of social platforms, very pragmatic. It’s consciousness-raising and movement building 2.0.”
Considering the global audience the envoys have access to, the potential reach of the campaign message is huge. Taking the more prominent names as an indicator of the possible audience, Arianna Huffington has just under 400,000 twitter followers aside from the Huffington Post’s readership,Randi has 150,000 facebook fans to communicate with and Biz Stone is followed by over 1 and a half million twitter users who it is hoped will be exposed to and subsequently become engaged with the malaria issue. In exploiting the potential reach and influence of these online opinion leaders the campaign is exploring a new type of ‘social web celebrity endorsement’ which I anticipate will provide the campaign with significant public reach.
Although the power of the world wide web is increasingly recognised and utilised in communication and PR campaigns I view the UN social media envoy as operating on a completely new level in comparison to other similar online campaigns (such as The Robin Hood Tax discussed below). In using these new media figureheads as spokespeople, who also have the best social media expertise alongside these huge public audiences, the campaign is operating from a particularly strong basis.
Hopefully the envoys will go beyond the minimum requirements of the commitment they made and use their 'online celebrity’ status to full potential for what is an obviously worthy cause.