Updated: Jul 31
Many have been both curious and critical about the "Black & White Selfie/ Women Supporting Women" challenge that's taken over Instagram over the past week, wondering if it's actually "doing anything".
One of my first agency jobs was at 360i where we were constantly asked by clients to create "movements" that "go viral". At times we were successful (like the infamous Oreo Rainbow Tweet) and sometimes we failed, but after many years of seeing memes and viral sensations, there is a bit of a formula of how a viral campaign works. Let's take the #challengeaccepted campaign/movement/latest Internet sensation:
Grab Attention/Break Through the Clutter - Says Instagram user: "Look at all these B&W glamour selfies! No one uses the Moon filter, this is strange." Or if they received a DM asking them to participate "This is random, but sounds cool, and I do support women. Why not?"
Context/Relevance - Participants were quick to join a campaign that at face value was about promoting and supporting other women. The reality is there are a number of women's issues and rights that are currently threatened or have gained heightened emergence over the last few months (let alone the fact gender equality has been an issue for as long as our country as existed). A few recent examples are Representative Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez's speech about sexual harassment within our government, transgender health protections being reversed, Breonna Taylor's murder, support for Black female-owned businesses, and the threat of women falling further behind in pay equity and the wealth gap due to providing their own childcare during COVID-related lockdowns. So yes, this is a time where it feels fitting to show your support for women generally.
Be Disruptive/Why Is This Happening? - The CTAs received via Instagram DMs users and post captions were vague and led to confusion. Criticism began right away and was escalated with this NY Times article.
Inspire Content Creation/Remixing - Instagram users decided to make the B&W challenge their own by using captions to explain how they support other women, call out gender inequality, trans rights, sexual discrimination, and that Breonna Taylor's murderers still walk free.
Original Purpose is Discovered, Not Fed - After a few days of the challenge, some participants and critics alike dug in deeper to find the original intention behind the campaign: a Turkish women's rights movement. Femicide is a huge issue in Turkey, with 474 women murdered in 2019 – the highest figures in a whole decade. Protests in Turkey broke out after a 27-year-old woman called Pınar Gültekin was strangled, burned and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in the Mugla province last week. Women in Turkey are said to have began the Black And White Photo Challenge in order to raise awareness of the struggles Turkish women face. Black and white photos are used to reflect when photos of murdered women are published in Turkish newspapers.
So was this movement a success? Looking at it from an initial metrics standpoint, the marketing side of me would say maybe, with one major caveat:
46M News Articles cataloged in Google Search.
5.5M uses of #challengeaccepted on Instagram (not an official hashtag, but one frequently used in campaign-related post captions)
7.9M uses of #womensupportingwomen on Instagram (again, not an official hashtag, but one frequently used in campaign-related post captions)
558k uses of #istanbulsözleşmesiyaşatır on Instagram, one of the hashtags used in the original Turkish campaign.
483k uses of #kadınaşiddetehayır on Instagram, another hashtag used in the original Turkish campaign.
If this was a brand campaign, we would measure brand awareness to see how effective it was in staying top of mind with participants. It's hard to tell initially whether the Turkish campaign was successful because the two hashtags most used in North America (#challengeaccepted and #womensupportingwomen) have been used for years. As of now, being generous, the total uses of the two Turkish campaign hashtags is roughly 13% of the total recorded uses of #womensupportingwomen. Compared to brand campaigns I worked on, it's okay, but for such an important issue, it should be better.
More qualitatively, and just as a person in the world, I would saw the movement has had a positive effect. It has evolved to demand individual, actionable support for all women when it comes to women's rights, issues, and empowerment in both large civic actions and daily acts of decency. As we saw with how celebrities and brand participated in the Black Lives Matter conversations in June, audiences are demanding less participation for participation's sake and more pledges of actions taken to combat social issues.
To support the Turkish women's rights movement and other women's issues, check out the links below. Please do let me know if there are other organizations you'd recommend:
Mor Cati - A women's shelter in Istanbul.
Justice for Breonna Taylor - White House Petition (different from the Change.org petition). This will help ensure that Loralei HoJay, a law student working on Breonna's case, has direct communications with the White House.
The Okra Project - The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People.