In 2010 a meme with the question “what color is your bra?” went viral with countless women around the globe posting their bra color on Facebook.
Every year, especially during October, social media is awash with viral posts that purportedly aim to raise awareness for breast cancer.
The goal? To get people curious enough to ask what’s going on and then trigger a conversation that would ultimately lead to sharing information about breast cancer awareness.
Another viral meme that has made the rounds on social media is the one where women are posting “I like it on” the floor, kitchen cabinet, in the car.
Just like the “what color is your bra?” meme, “I like it on” posts also seek to raise breast cancer awareness. And it doesn’t have to do anything with sex. In fact, the women were talking about where they’d like to leave their purse.
What made these memes and similar ones so viral?
Take, for instance, the “I like it on” campaign was full of sexual innuendos, which probably was what made it go viral.
The “what color is your bra” campaign got people curious to ask what was happening, and in turn, encouraged more and more women to share their bra color.
Though, at the core of these social media awareness campaign lies the shared knowledge that it can be me. These campaigns tapped into one of human’s primordial emotion – that of shared grief.
Each of us is related to or has known someone who had battled cancer. So, in a way, the breast cancer meme is our little way of healing the world of this scourge.
These memes where gamified ( made into online games) in some cases. Making it even more emotionally charged and entertaining. A cool recipe for going viral. So, when you consider all these, it becomes quite clear why so many social media users were only eager to share and repost the memes.
In addition, breast cancer awareness memes usually only go viral during a certain time of the year – in October – which is the designated world breast cancer awareness month. So, timing also plays a crucial role in how viral the memes become.
How did the social media meme fall short of user mobilization?
In spite of the successes of these memes to raise breast cancer awareness, some have argued it has done little to mobilize real-life action.
The reason for this is that often these memes are not tied-in to any real-life action, say, for example, the campaigns haven’t led to a noticeable increase in donations towards getting a cure for the disease or for even more people to volunteer.
This sad situation may be because there are no concerted efforts made to track or measure the impact of these viral memes. Also, the sexualized nature of the memes, plus no additional information with concrete call-to-action are the other reasons the viral memes failed to mobilize users.
What can be done to take more advantage of these social media memes?
First, more information with clear call-to-action should be included in these memes. This way, people don’t have to wonder what was going on; plus, they get to see a clear line of action they were expected to take.
Secondly, tuning down on sexualizing the issue of breast cancer – though, the sexual innuendos were what made them viral in the first place – and focusing more on the message of creating awareness.
Finally, efforts should be made to measure the reach and impact of these campaigns on specific metrics – how many people donated to breast cancer research as a result of these memes? How many volunteered?