Is all support created equal?

Guest post by Noel Beebe, Interactive Consultant at Convio


If you’re an avid Facebook junkie like me, you probably noticed a lot of “colorful” updates last week.  After the rash of um, ok’s and what’s up with all the colors comments, word caught on that the colors were, in fact, indicative of the color of bra that you (well, women) were wearing at the time.  The messages I received requested that I share my bra color “in support of breast cancer awareness.”  Chatter from multiple blogs suggests the trend was started by a group of women in Detroit, while ABC News suggests it may have started overseas.  Regardless of its origin, the trend took off with lightning speed, and before I knew it, my FB home feed was lit up with Red, Black, and uh… none!


While the bra color phenomenon was entertaining, if reminiscent of an adolescent inside joke, I have to wonder whether it really did live up to its promise of “supporting breast cancer awareness.”  For the most part, Facebook is used by nonprofit organizations or its champions to “raise awareness” for a given cause, but I was disappointed that the bra message did not offer a single fact about breast cancer or even a reminder to perform a monthly self-exam, let alone offer a link to donate or support breast cancer research in any way.  As a long-time supporter of breast cancer awareness, I have to wonder, is all “support” created equal?


Also disappointing is that no one knows where the trend originated.  Wouldn’t it be great if it had originated with an organization like Komen, American Cancer Society, or Avon?  I get the feeling there could be a lot of value in this sort of social advocacy, if it were reinforced with facts, or – even better – a call to action.  I wonder sometimes if Facebook makes it too easy for users to build social capital by “supporting” causes with status updates, like buttons, and fan pages, rather than actual actions.


It’s up to nonprofits to take the reins and really use tools like Facebook and Twitter to the fullest, by posting volunteer opportunities, advocacy alerts, and donation asks to their friends, fans, and followers whenever possible.  We know now that if you make it fun, people are willing to spread the word.  The question is – what should that word be?