In the past I have poured over  selfies and the limited effects of “hashtag diplomacy”, but today I have a confession to make: I recently joined a social media challenge* without really knowing what it was about (don´t judge me).

However, to redeem myself, I took on the task of digging through the objectives of some social media challenge campaigns highlighting what differentiates them from some other forgotten or failed hashtag  initiatives.



If you didn´t take the time to google it, ALS is not the American Sign Language. ALS actually stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a lethal neurodegenerative disorder. The original idea of the #IceBucketChallenge  was to create a chain of challenges where you either  give $100 to ALS or dump ice water on your head.

PRO:  It´s fun, innovative and perfect for summer. It´s a clear ask addressed to 3 immediate members of your close network (people you know well enough to challenge). It generates empathy and it actually demands an action from individuals using social media pressure to see that action through.

CONS: Most people seem to be opting to get soaked and post the videos on social media without including information on ALS. This is not necessarily a con, it generates (some) awareness, but it limits actual donations. In addition, it has inspired a couple of spin offs including an empty bucket trend in awareness of water scarcity and security.

#MDGmomentum This hashtag is part of a larger campaign in the United Nations universe and it was used to generate conversations on Millennium Development Goal achievements.

PRO:  Perhaps one of the best things of this campaign is that it is inclusive. The hashtag is only a piece in a series of free and available materials shared so every organization working to achieve the MDG could generate its own conversation among its audience (check out Atlas Corps twitter chat: serving to achieve MDG3).

CONS: Like many development initiatives MDGmomentum – MDG_500  was plagued with acronyms, leaving many outsiders guessing what it was about.  The buzz over MDGs was achieved within the circle of people working towards that goal, however, it would be interesting to know how many decision making actors are on these platforms and where part of the conversations.

#100happyDays Another challenge: “Can you be happy for 100 days in a row?”  Apparently we cannot ignore a good challenge (or at least I can’t*). This hashtag campaign began as Dmitry Golubnichy´s  personal project  to be more appreciative of what made him happy. As the campaign grew, some of us began to ask what the objective of the campaign was.

PRO: It´s fun. People that go through with this self imposed challenge are reminded that every day has a silver lining and small details make all the difference.

CONS: Happiness is confusing. If you go to the campaign´s website you will find a donation section and a description of a fundraiser/social enterprise/business model. This donation part of the campaign is not very clear, does not specify beneficiaries and does not let you contact the creators. Confusing.

My challenge for you: Too often we hashtag our way into challenges and campaigns without knowing what they stand for,  we join in without facts in hand or join in believing that our virtual input will bring about solutions.  My challenge for you is simple: do a little ground work before tagging.

–          MVD

Follow me @mvdangond1

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