Oktora Irahadi, Steny Agustaf, Ucita Pohan, and Hannah Al Rashid shared the stories behind their influence on social media.

You scroll through your feed, double tap, like and comment. But have you ever thought about the impact you and social influencers can have on social issues?

Take world sensation K-pop group BTS. Their speech at  last year’s  73rd General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA) went viral worldwide, pushing #UNGA to become the top trending hashtag globally.  During the high-level week, there were 4.1 million social media posts using #UNGA from 1 million unique users, resulting in 17.7 million engagements. Not only did this bring more awareness about UNGA but also attracted a younger audience.

Social Influencers play a large role in creating positive change. This topic was the focus of our fourth SDGTalks: Influencers with A Cause where four of Indonesia’s social influencers Hannah Al-Rashid (Actor and UN SDG Mover), Oktora Irahadi (Cameo Project), Ucita Pohan (Radio Broadcaster) and Steny Agustaf (Radio Presenter) shared their thoughts.

With its explosive number of users, social media provides a perfect storm for advocating causes. According to Hootsuite, there are over 3.48 billion social media users, up 9.0% from 2017-2018. Indonesia alone makes up for 150 million users and has the 3rd largest growth in social media users in the world.

As social media continues to be a beneficial tool in the dissemination of news and a way to foster positive social change. More people are turning to influencers to determine whether to buy hottest new thing or support a social cause. It is also becoming more accessible for anyone to be an influencer. But how does one become a social influencer?

“Whatever idea you have, you have to turn it into action, or it will just be an idea,” said Agustaf who is also a passionate philanthropist.

Agustaf is a founder of Yellow Ribbon Foundation, a non-profit organisation which seeks to raise money for the underprivileged terminally ill children. In 2015, his foundation waged ‘Shaved for Hope’ campaign which saw various celebrities shaving their heads to raise money for children with cancer. The event was praised by many for providing inspiration and moral courage for the cancer-stricken children.

Key to the success of the ‘Shave For Hope’ campaign, is a well-designed social media campaign involving celebrities and influencers, adds Agustaf.

Content creator Irahadi cites the importance of  data to advocate social causes, particularly for non-profit organisations. Audience love facts and figures and superlative terms, hence injecting key data showing the urgency of the issue will help them engage even more, says Irahadi.

Being a public person with outspoken causes, you have to also be ready for the backlash. Al-Rashid, an advocator for gender equality – a sensitive subject in Indonesia – spoke about the backlash she has received. Some companies have shown reluctant to engage with her due to her perceived ‘political’ persona. But she refuses to back down on her causes saying, “as long as you feel what you are doing is right, keep doing it”.

Recognizing the vital role social influencers play in today’s society, the UN has appointed social influencers from various walks of life to champion the SDGs.

“Social Influencers are the future in ensuring the SDGs are achieved. They’re a powerful voice for social change” said Francyine Harrigan, Director of United Nations Information Centre.

An example of an UN social influencer would be Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones Actor and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador who champions climate change, gender equality and poverty reduction.

Social media is the tool that we can all use to foster positive social change throughout the world. And most importantly you have to be genuine with your causes.

“It’s not about the number of followers you can get. You have to be authentically you; you have to believe your message. You can’t post something with the goal of being viral. As long as you feel what you are doing is right, keep doing it” said Al-Rashid.

Story by Kiana Bonnick


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