Social movements have looked different over the past two years
The pandemic, racial injustice, and environmental concerns have called millions to action – often from the comfort and security of their homes.
And while simply clicking on a petition or retweeting a hashtag – acts often disparagingly called ‘clicktivism’ – are unlikely to cause lasting change, online activism in the virtual events space is increasingly driving offline impact.
As virtual events provide much more data than in-person rallies, political strategists are quickly recognising the power of this evolving digital currency. So, what does the future hold for these emerging forms of youth-driven digital civic engagement?
Gen-Z leads the way
Generation Z – those born after 1996 – are increasingly mentoring their elders on climate action. Studies show that over three-quarters of members of this demographic are concerned about humanity’s impact on the environment, while, in the past few weeks alone, 67% of Gen-Zers have spoken out about the need for climate action on at least one occasion. Furthermore, almost half (45%) have recently engaged with environmental content via social media, highlighting how the younger generation is more active than ever before in addressing climate change – both on- and offline.
While Boomers protested with sit-ins and picket signs, Generation Z has embraced a decidedly more digital approach to social activism. Youth movements like Fridays for Future and the Sunrise Movement, which advocate political action on climate change, have ushered in a new era of mass mobilisation by challenging conventional protest methods.
For example, November 2021 saw a global digital rally for climate justice steal headlines from the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. In a landmark moment for hybrid events, the broadcast simultaneously brought together the voices of remote campaigners and activists across the world with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in over 200 global actions and demonstrations.
The decentralised nature of these virtual events promotes inclusivity by allowing anyone, anywhere, to get involved. Gen-Z are therefore driving a transformation in digital activism by bringing social justice and the virtual events space together to build powerful, connected networks of peers across the globe.
Scaling social movements through virtual events
Virtual civic engagement has risen and extended beyond matters of climate justice. The 2020 murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked a summer of digital activism, where a surging worldwide movement against systemic racial injustice transitioned into online spaces. Millions of dollars were raised via Twitter to support bail funds for protesters, while around 28 million Instagram users posted black squares to the platform as part of #BlackoutTuesday. With much of the globe still under lockdown measures, people found creative ways to break down geographical barriers and demonstrate solidarity from their homes, including through digital BLM protests on The Sims.
As such, virtual events have helped to propel various social movements to the global mainstream. And with cities like Oxford now taking part in an online Festival of Social Justice, this trend towards scalable social activism experiences through digital channels looks set to continue going from strength to strength.
A powerful digital currency
Virtual event platforms provide much more data than in-person political rallies; so, it should come as no surprise that strategists have taken note of social activism’s growing digital foothold. Sophisticated virtual and hybrid event platforms can offer invaluable analyses of comments to help speakers hone their messaging to gain broader appeal, sell campaign merch online, and even offer supporters a private virtual audience in return for extra donations. Over 13 years after Barack Obama became the first ‘social media president’, these developments in the virtual event platform market could represent the next evolution in how politicians engage with a tech-savvy electorate.
But the benefits of virtual events technology are not just reserved for political elites. With the optimum tools and an intuitive platform, anybody can create their own captivating virtual event to raise awareness of a cause and connect with like-minded groups around the world. By going digital or going hybrid, event organisers stand to increase numbers of attendees, boost engagement, make considerable cost savings, and avoid gaining a ‘super spreader’ or ‘gas guzzler’ tag on social media.
From local campaigns and charitable endeavours to global social activism initiatives, a virtual audience awaits passionate people with big ideas. Those who partner with the right virtual event platform will reap the benefits of the flexibility, accessibility, and data insights it provides, enabling them to successfully shape a powerful and multi-pronged activist movement.
About the Author
Liesl Leary-Perez is Vice President, Corporate Marketing at Hubilo. With close to 25 years of knowledge across the complete spectrum of Marketing, Liesl’s core expertise lies in brand building and heading up content, creative, and global communications organizations. Before joining Hubilo, she worked as the Global Head of Corporate Marketing at TTEC, Global Head of Content Marketing at SDL plc, and spent 20 years in international business strategy working for leading translation organizations. She is also an active corporate philanthropist, raising money for causes that promote sustainable economic development and diversity initiatives.
Featured image: ©Natanelginting