#nomakeupselfie shows how social platforms can provide opportunities for social good

Identity, self worth and the social self are key considerations when producing viral campaigns, so it's no wonder #nomakeupselfie is such a success when done for social good.

Cancer Research UK's chief executive Harpal Kumar thanks those who donated
Cancer Research UK's chief executive Harpal Kumar thanks those who donated

Love it or loathe it, the #nomakeupselfie phenomenon proved a massive success for Cancer Research raising more than £1m and generating more than 800,000 text donations within 24 hours.

At the time of writing, the campaign has reportedly raised more than £8m and is rapidly spreading around the globe.

The #nomakeupselfie campaign has demonstrated two things: the first is that social platforms are very powerful marketing tools, and the second is that peer-to-peer marketing thrives on these platforms.

The key to developing these viral campaigns is not just about content, but how the content creates a feeling of identity and self-worth. Platforms such as Facebook tap into the fundamental desire to connect, but it also taps into something even more emotive – our desire to fashion an image or project a more socially appealing ‘self’.

This is based on the age-old concept of the ‘looking-glass self’, which suggests that we develop our sense of self-worth based on the perceptions of others.

We are seeing the emergence of the social self. This deep-rooted desire for acceptance and sharing can be a powerful marketing tool if harnessed correctly (and for the right reasons) on peer-to-peer networks.

It is even more powerful when combined with digital altruism, which is when people collaborate for a cause.

While people may sneer at the #nomakeupselfie, this type of sharing on social networks has the potential for achieving profoundly positive consequences when directed towards a noble cause.

Brands can also leverage this form of marketing for their products and services if handled carefully, but they stand to gain significantly more in terms of reputation and profits if they build their campaigns around social causes.

The whole #nomakeupselfie has demonstrated that platforms can be powerful tools for building campaigns, but understanding how technology interacts with identity and self-worth can drive impactful campaigns that deliver positive social outcomes.

John Shewell is the founding director of colab, a strategic consultancy specialising in co-creating campaigns and solutions to address social issues

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