Children’s charity Unicef has openly derided Facebook users in a hard-hitting campaign, saying hitting the like button won’t save lives.
The charity’s Swedish arm has criticised so-called “slativists” for engaging with Unicef online but failing to part with any cash.
With the strapline “Likes don’t save lives,” Unicef says it needs money rather than social media popularity.
In one video, a young boy talks about worrying about getting ill like his mum, adding: “But I think everything will be all right. Today, Unicef Sweden has 177,000 likes on Facebook. Maybe they will reach 200,000 by summer. Then we should be all right.”
Another message reads: “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio.”
Social media has traditionally been seen as crucial to raise awareness among a younger generation of possible donors.
But Unicef Sweden’s director of communications Petra Hallebrant said as much as the charity appreciated likes, people should not stop by simply clicking a button. “Likes don’t save children’s lives,” she said. “We need money to buy vaccines for instance.”
It’s a bold move that puts the message across through videos on YouTube and print advertising that empty social media gestures won’t protect youngsters against disease or help pull them out of poverty.
Unicef and its advertising agency Forsman and Bodenfors, which has a raft of top-name clients including Volvo and Ikea, say they believed they had to step in to dispel false notions about liking a cause on Facebook.
The organisation carried out a study along with YouGov, which found that 20 per cent of people thought pressing the like button on Facebook was a good way to support a cause, two-thirds of respondents said they had liked something without actually caring about the issue involved and one in seven said liking an organisation on Facebook was just as good as donating money.
Hallebrant says Unicef has taken care not to criticise either Facebook or the fans who use it but she adds while social media is a useful tool to raise immediate awareness, involvement should not stop there.
However, the charity’s adverts don’t have such a diplomatic tone. They have divided opinion, provoking debate on social media networks, news sites and forums.
One forum user said: “Not all campaigns need money, just awareness… I understand organisations like Unicef do need actual money but they should be praising those who support them on social media. Surely, it’s another channel to raise awareness about what they do and what they need to do it.”
While social media users have come under fire, a recent study by Georgetown University and Ogilvy Worldwide found that those who used social media were just as likely to donate to charity as anyone else and that they were, in fact, more likely to give up their time to volunteer.
It certainly gets right to the point and Unicef’s video has had thousands of views. But whether the charity’s latest campaign manages to transform likes into cash or whether it has simply angered social media users remains to be seen.