Twignatures is a new social media campaign created for Amnesty International by Aussie agency BMF Melbourne.
The idea is genius.
By simply Retweeting a message from Amnesty International, your Twitter name is instantly converted to a digital signature on an online petition.
This is your Twignature.
“Harnessing the power of social media, Twignature allows support for a cause to gather momentum quickly and demonstrates the critical mass visually. Starting out of Amnesty International Switzerland, the first Twignature campaign is petitioning the Brazilian government to protect Laisa Santos Sampaio, an environmental activist in the Amazon. It’s running in three languages: English, French and German.”
Cool, I hear you say. Well, yes it is.
But to me therein lies the problem.
Amnesty has always been about writing letters. By doing so you provided succour to those languishing in foreign prisons, and applied pressure to offending governments. And it worked. Amnesty became a ray of hope to prisoners of conscience around the world, and a royal pain-in-the-neck to offending governments everywhere.
To me there was something fundamentally human at the heart of what Amnesty was doing. It was getting people to sit down, pen in hand, and write a letter. To engage with the person and their cause. To find out about them and their family. This took time and effort. It made Amnesty volunteers great ambassadors for the organisation and what it was trying to achieve. And it also gave people a real understanding of the injustices perpetrated around the globe every day of the year.
The governments, and more importantly the prisoners of conscience who received these letters, knew that people were thinking about them. That was the real pressure that was being brought to bear.
Now, while getting more Twignatures for a good cause is, on the surface, a great thing. Does it actually fall foul of its own success?
It takes no more than a few seconds to Retweet a message. Many of us do it without thinking about it, or even reading it. You only have to look at the recent Lord McAlpine Twitter fiasco, where hundreds of people libeled an innocent man. By Retweeting his name they were ‘getting in on the act’. They were doing the cool thing.
Unfortunately they had failed to engage their brains.
They knew little or nothing of the individual in question, of the damage they were causing him, or the financial risk they were putting themselves at.
Why? Because they didn’t need to. All they had to do was click on Retweet. Minimum effort. Minimum engagement. And that to me is where Twignatures falls down. Ok it’s great in terms of numbers, but at its heart, it’s lacking in gravitas.
Getting a lot of Retweets doesn’t mean that what you have to say is in any way important. In fact, it’s often the exact opposite.
Here I’ll let the evidence speak for itself.
As of Sep 2012, the ten most Retweeted Tweets included ones by: Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Selina Gomez, Katy Perry, Lady GaGa, Floyd Mayweather, T.J. Lang, and Justin Bieber.
Unfortunately, in the world of Twitter Retweets, quantity has very little do with quality.
Maybe that’s something Amnesty should have thought about?